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UW-Eau Claire launches nurses on teaching career path

| Jan Adams

"The Nurses for Wisconsin Predoctoral Fellowship has changed my career path quite drastically. It has provided me with the means and opportunity to pursue my doctoral degree as well as explore and launch my career in teaching. I'm looking forward to beginning this new chapter in my nursing career."
Jennifer Bukowiec
2015 DNP Fellowship Awardee

With a 3.2 million dollar award, the Nurses for Wisconsin goal is to increase the number of Registered Nurses (RNs) in Wisconsin by expanding the nursing education capacity within the University of Wisconsin System. Nurses for Wisconsin accelerated the preparation of nursing faculty by encouraging nurses to enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Ph.D. programs with predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowship awards ranging from $21,500 to $90,000, and recruitment of faculty with a loan repayment program of up to $50,000. In exchange, fellows and faculty made a three-year commitment to teach in a UW System nursing program.

Nurses for Wisconsin, initiated and led by Dean Linda Young, UW-Eau Claire College of Nursing and Health Sciences and with participation from UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and UW Oshkosh, was one of the twelve UW System proposals selected to spur economic growth, expand workforce development and address college affordability. A 2013-2015 Economic Development Incentive Grant funded these projects. 

Dean Young stated, "The timing of this incentive grant offering was perfect as it came on the heels of a workshop in which the six UW nursing program leaders and faculty representatives met to problem-solve the nursing faculty shortage. Providing financial support for deserving applicants to pursue a PhD in nursing, DNP or post doctorate degree to help qualify them for faculty positions was the necessary first step. Adding to the grant proposal loan forgiveness for new faculty hires was also included to help address the present shortage of nursing faculty."

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) predicts a shortfall of 20,000 nurses (35%) by 2035. In addition, the Wisconsin Center for Nursing reports that the average age of Wisconsin nursing faculty is 58 years and 58% of faculty plan to leave the workforce in less than nine years. Nursing leaders from the project campuses developed Nurses for Wisconsin as a response to these alarming statistics. A statewide investment like this in nursing education has never been seen before. 

"Nursing education has always been a passion of mine," stated Bill Parsons, a 2015 DNP fellowship awardee. "As of the last few years I have been fortunate enough to work as a preceptor with new nurses in my specialty area. This has been a rewarding experience, prompting me to pursue a role with the capacity to influence others new to nursing on a more significant scale."

At UW-Eau Claire, this initiative furnished fourteen predoctoral fellowships for students pursuing either Ph.D.s or doctor of nursing practice degrees (DNP). One postdoctoral fellowship to advance nursing research and evidence-based practice was awarded to Ann Recine, RN, DNP.  

Dr. Recine said, "I always wanted to also teach. Nurses for Wisconsin has made it possible for me to obtain a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree in UW-Eau Claire's Masters to Doctorate program and continue my education.  With help from Nurses for Wisconsin, I have been become a Clinical Assistant Professor."

Upon completion of their programs over the next three to five years, these individuals will be eligible to teach within any of the UW System nursing programs. In addition, four new faculty participated in the loan repayment program. At a state level, over fifty individuals have received educational support to expand the nursing education capacity within the University of Wisconsin System.

Two conferences focusing on career development, mentoring, and best practices in education were held for the awardees. National nurse leaders participated as keynote speakers and presenters.

Above photo: UW-Eau Claire DNP fellowship awardee, Christina Funk, participates in a session during the 2015 Nurses for Wisconsin Conference held at School of Nursing, Signe Skott Cooper Hall, UW-Madison. See more photos on Flckr.
Photo courtesy of John Wingren, Media Solutions, UW-Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health.