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UM School of Nursing Students Engage Lawmakers on Critical Issues for Nursing

A large group of students, faculty members and administrators from the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) traveled to Annapolis on Feb. 23 to help lawmakers better understand the role of the nurse and the needs of nursing education.

An underlying theme of the 2011 Advocacy Day was the urgent challenge presented by changes in the delivery of health care. One factor is the steps that Maryland is taking to best put into effect provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Another is a far-reaching report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the future of nursing that, among other things, calls for nurses to be allowed to practice to the scope of their education and training.

School of Nursing Dean Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN, led the School's effort to familiarize lawmakers with the IOM recommendations, which comprise "an action-oriented blueprint for how nurses will be contributing to the health care needs of the nation."

She addressed the Women Legislators of Maryland, giving an overview and answering questions from members of the caucus. "The IOM report very much intersects with the health care reform legislation," she said. If implemented as passed at the federal level, it would add many millions of individuals to the system. "That will require a much more robust work force, particularly a primary care work force," Allan said.

A key step would be to remove the practice barriers that prevent primary care-providing nurses from fully contributing. For example, Allan told the caucus, a physician may refer a patient to home health care in Maryland but state law precludes a nurse practitioner from doing so.

Later in the day, during a briefing on health care reform, Allan and the group of more than 50 individuals representing the UMSON heard from Carolyn Quattrocki, JD, the governor's deputy legislative officer. Quattrocki outlined the state's response aimed at ensuring an adequate workforce.

The geographic impact of UMSON was apparent as the 40 nursing students, who are enrolled at the School in Baltimore as well as its branch at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, took their messages to the offices of delegates and senators from throughout Maryland.

Many of the students expressed their desires to pursue their careers in Maryland, often in the parts of the state where they were raised.

While acknowledging the budgetary restraints facing the General Assembly, they asked for sustained support of the University's funding and investment in scholarships and the state's Loan Assistance Repayment Program (LARP).

Nursing education demands high-cost inputs such as labs and medical equipment, they explained. It takes $24,000 or more a year to educate a baccalaureate nursing student, but tuition and fees amount to just over $8,000 a year per student. A nursing shortage has caused clinical salaries to increase, making it harder to attract and retain faculty.

Delegate William Frank, MAS, addressed the group, speaking to the importance of nursing education to supply a work force that keenly matters in his Baltimore County district, which has several large hospitals.

"Where are the guys?" he asked, surveying his audience to pick out the men. In response to his question, Frank was told that male nursing students make up 12 percent of the enrollment.

Overall, UMSON has 643 baccalaureate students, 965 Master of Science students, and 121 doctoral students.

Delegate Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, MAS, BSN, RN, a 1980 alumna of the UMSON who represents Baltimore County, recounted her difficult push to establish the state's Office of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"We all have a responsibility to address racial and ethnic disparities in our communities," she said. She listed several social determinants of health such as stress and racism, calling for greater understanding of how these may negatively impact certain groups. African-American women suffer disproportionately from cardiovascular diseases, she noted.

Nathan-Pulliam urged her listeners to think beyond their present status as nursing students. "You need to see the things you can accomplish," she said.

Posting Date: 03/10/2011
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu