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AACN Applauds Senator Richard Durbin for Introducing the Troops to Nurse Teachers Act of 2008

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Press Release
For Immediate Release

Partnerships between the military and civilian schools of nursing would help address the severe nurse faculty shortage and increase the nation’s supply of registered nurses

WASHINGTON, DC, March 5, 2008 - Today, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) applauded Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) for introducing the Troops to Nurse Teachers (TNT) Act of 2008 (S. 2705). At a time when the military and civilian healthcare systems have been crippled by an acute nursing shortage, the need for innovative solutions, like the TNT program, are essential to increasing the number of educators who will prepare the next generation of registered nurses.

“Our schools of nursing are struggling to increase student capacity in the face of a severe nurse faculty shortage. The TNT program would offer nursing schools a great incentive to partner with the military to overcome this obstacle,” said AACN President Jeanette Lancaster. “AACN is committed to working with Senator Durbin and Congress to see this important piece of legislation passed.”

The military faces the same difficulty in recruiting and retaining nurses as civilian healthcare facilities. Neither the Army nor the Air Force has met its active service nurse recruitment goals since the 1990s. In 2006, the Air Force, Army, and Navy experienced overall nurse vacancy rates of 15 percent, 8 percent, and 9.6 percent, respectively. In order to address the current shortage, all branches of the military are offering incentives to encourage nurses to join the Armed Services.

However, the fundamental problem of the nursing shortage is that civilian schools of nursing, where the military recruits, do not have the faculty necessary to educate an adequate number of nurses. According to AACN’s 2006-2007 annual survey, U.S. nursing schools turned away 42,866 qualified applicants to baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. Almost three quarters of the schools responding to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a primary reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into their programs.

According to a Special Survey on Vacant Faculty Positions released by AACN in July 2007, the national nurse faculty vacancy rate has grown to 8.8 percent. The nurse faculty shortage is expected to escalate as a wave of faculty retirements is projected for the near future. According to a 2002 article titled The Shortage of Doctorally Prepared Nursing Faculty: A Dire Situation, the average age of nurse faculty at retirement is 62.5 years. With the average age of doctorally-prepared faculty currently 53.5 years, significant numbers of faculty will be retiring within the next ten years.

The TNT program, offers a creative solution to help address the nursing shortage. Modeled after the successful Department of Defense (DOD) program called Troops to Teachers, the goal of the four-pronged program is to increase the number of nurse faculty members so schools of nursing may expand enrollments and alleviate the ongoing shortage. The TNT program offers: a fellowship program for Commissioned Officers with a graduate degree in nursing; a scholarship program for Commissioned Officers who have served at least 20 years of active duty as a nurse and are eligible for retirement; a transitional assistance program for Commissioned Officers of the Nurse Corps who have served at least 20 years and are already qualified to teach; and a program for retired Nurse Corps Officers who can serve as full-time faculty in a accredited school of nursing.

The nursing community has widely supported this program since its conception in 2006. Last year, 23 nursing organizations supported the TNT program as an amendment to the DOD Authorization Bill. This year, 28 nursing organizations have supported Senator Durbin’s stand-alone bill. The overwhelming support for this program is due to a clear understanding that the nurse faculty shortage plays a critical role in the current nursing shortage. AACN is grateful to Senator Durbin, and the original ten cosponsors of the bill, including Senators Inhofe (R-OK), Obama (D-IL), Lieberman (I-CT), Biden (D-DE), Reed (D-RI) Mikulski (D-MD), Collins (R-ME), Menendez (D-NJ), Dole (R-NC), and Inouye (D-HI). The nursing community letter of support for S. 2705 can be found at http://www.aacn.nche.edu/government-affairs/TNTLetter.pdf.

“As a former military nurse and faculty member, I understand the tremendous value the TNT program could offer nursing students,” said AACN Executive Director Geraldine Bednash. “Military nurses have the opportunity to share their experiences with nursing students and help them to understand not only the importance of the nursing profession, but also the significance of a career as a military nurse officer.”

Many retired military nurses currently serve as faculty in schools of nursing and are well-respected members of the team as they offer unique perspectives on nursing to our students and other faculty. In fact, one of AACN’s member institutions, the University of Maryland School of Nursing, currently has a contractual relationship with the Army Nurse Corps and eight Army Nurse Officers are serving as faculty in their school of nursing. For more information on this program, see http://nursing.umaryland.edu/news/2007/6-18.htm.

In support of the TNT bill, AACN will host a Military Nurse Shortage Briefing on April 8, 2008 in the Capitol Building. “Clearly this program benefits our schools of nursing, but it also offers a huge incentive for the Armed Services,” said Lancaster. “I cannot think of a better recruitment strategy than to have experienced, highly-motivated, and passionate Nurse Corps Officers explain to nursing students the benefit of a military career.”

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The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing. Representing more than 670 member schools of nursing at public and private institutions nationwide, AACN's educational, research, governmental advocacy, data collection, publications, and other programs work to establish quality standards for bachelor's- and graduate-degree nursing education, assist deans and directors to implement those standards, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, and promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate nursing education, research, and practice. www.aacn.nche.edu.

CONTACT:

Robert Rosseter, 202-463-6930, ext. 231
rrosseter@aacn.nche.edu