Webster University’s Nursing Department is receiving new lifeblood as the recipient of a $111,725 grant from the Nursing Education Incentive Program from the Missouri State Board of Nursing.
Only seven grants were awarded through the Nursing Education Incentive Program. The purpose of the program is to “increase the physical and educational capacity of professional nursing programs in Missouri.” Webster’s grant is to improve access to their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.
Janice Palmer, the chair of Webster University’s nursing department, was an integral part of Webster’s efforts to obtain the grant.
“We calculated the costs of the program transition,” Palmer said, “at least for the costs that were eligible to be covered by the grant and submitted a budget for those costs.”
According to Webster University News, the MSN program is currently in-person only. The grant will allow the university’s program to “transition to a live virtual environment that will include weekly online modules for [students] and Zoom sessions.”
Webster University News said the grant will “cover the costs of developing a curriculum and designing the class content, as well as enhance Webster’s existing nursing curriculum by hiring experts in epidemiology, disease processes and other topics for lectures.”
The state of Missouri is currently facing a nursing shortage, with many of the shortages happening in communities with healthcare disparities.
“The need for nurses is critical,” Palmer said. “Missouri’s statewide staff nurse vacancy is 12% and the staff nurse turnover rate of 18.1% is the highest since the Missouri Hospital Association [started] tracking this data 20 plus years ago. Furthermore, 34% of Missouri’s nurses are age 55 or older. Prior to COVID-19, [a NIH study] projected that one-third of all nursing faculty would retire between 2016 and 2025. Now vacancies, turnover rates and retirements have far surpassed even the most dire projections and the full-impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses is not yet fully realized.”
Nurses have faced a tremendous uphill battle during the pandemic. The International Council of Nurses said nurses have faced “mass trauma.” In October 2021, the World Health Organization estimated between 80,000 and 180,000 nurses died due to the pandemic. U.S. healthcare workers are still fighting the pandemic today, with the U.S. approaching 1 million deaths from COVID-19.
“Webster University prepares students who are already registered nurses in graduate degrees which focus on the nurse educator and nurse leader roles,” Palmer said. “So, we address the shortage by preparing nurse educators to fill nurse faculty, clinical educator and nurse preceptor roles. In other words, many of our graduate alums are teaching future nurses and new nurses.”
According to Palmer, the nurse educator graduates are currently and will continue to be an important resource for pre-licensure programs.
“The opportunity allows us to bring in a greater number of content experts,” Palmer said. “We are looking forward to including the perspectives of individuals with current practice experience from many specialty areas.”
With this grant, the university can combat the shortage by providing greater access to the university’s program. Palmer said virtual learning will allow students outside of the metro area to attend classes they otherwise couldn’t. She also said student feedback indicated a positive reception to the program’s expansion.