SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that 15 nurse educators will receive $10,000 fellowship grants that will help them continue teaching future generations of Illinois nurses. This new fellowship program is part of Governor Blagojevich’s commitment to improving health care for Illinoisans by increasing the number of nurse educators working at Illinois nursing programs.
The Fellows, selected by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), are recognized as some of the top nursing faculty in Illinois and they represent the entire scope of nursing education in Illinois, with three grants awarded to faculty of community colleges, four to public institutions and eight from private nursing schools in Illinois. They were nominated by the heads of the nursing programs at those institutions and were chosen from among 46 nominees at 24 nursing programs.
“Nurses are on the frontlines of healthcare. They’re often the first people we see when we’re sick. But, Illinois, like the rest of the country, is facing a shortage of nurses. One way to address the shortage is to help nurses’ educators stay in faculty to teach future generations of nurses. These fellowships will help us do that,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation last July which created several programs designed to meet the growing health care needs of Illinois’ aging baby boomer generation. The legislation created a nursing education scholarship that will make pursuing a career in nursing education more attractive and more affordable in Illinois. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) will award approximately $1.3 million in scholarships early next year. Additionally, the law created the Illinois Nurse Educator Loan Repayment program to allow current educators to receive $5,000 in student loan forgiveness for a year, for up to four years. The program is expected to be up and running next year. The legislation also created the new Illinois Center on Nursing, which opened in October. Nurse Fellows will work with the Nursing Center on issues relating to nurse education.
“One of the barriers to addressing the shortage of nurses in Illinois is the availability of faculty to teach in our nursing programs,” Judy Erwin, Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said. “This program is a significant step in recognizing outstanding faculty members and helping to retain them as nursing educators.”
The 15 Nursing Fellows for 2007 are:
Kay Gaehle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Nursing, SIU-Edwardsville
Margaret Gas, MSN, Associate Professor, Nursing, Oakton Community College
Constance J. Hardy, MSN*, Assistant Professorial Lecturer, Director of Graduate Practicum Placement, Saint Xavier University
Judith Hertz, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Northern Illinois University
Brian W. Higgerson, DNS, Clinical Assistant Professor, Director of Nurse Practitioner Programs, DePaul University
Wendy Carter Kooken, MSN*, Assistant Professor, Nursing, Bradley University
Cindy MacDonald, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Nursing, College of Lake County
Sharie A. Metcalf, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Nursing, Illinois Wesleyan University
Mary Oesterle, Ed.D., Professor, Nursing, Elmhurst College
Donna J. Plonczynski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Nursing, Northern Illinois University
Ethel C. Ragland, Ed.D., Professor, Chair, Department of Nursing and Health, Benedictine University
Cynthia E. Reese, MS*, Professor, Nursing, Lincoln Land Community College
Kelly Ruppel, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Nursing, MacMurray College
Sandie Soldwisch, Ph.D., Professor, Nursing, North Park University
Wendy Woith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Nursing, Illinois State University
* Doctoral student
Since 2003, Governor Blagojevich has taken a broad array of actions to deal with the nursing shortage and improve the working conditions for Illinois nurses. They include:
- Professional License Reform Project: Also included in the FY 2007 budget was a significant investment in technology and personnel to reduce the waiting time for nurses and other licensed professionals to obtain new licenses or renew current licenses. IDFPR has implement the new licensing system in its Division of Professional Regulation, which issues more than 900,000 of the department’s 1.2 million professional licenses. The new initiative reduces application processing time for professional licenses from the four to19 weeks it took last year, to just one to four weeks – an improvement of more than 400%. The initiative costs $1.5 million annually.
- Enhancing the Nursing Education Scholarship Program: The Nursing Education Scholarship Program became more effective when additional funding was included in the reauthorization of the Nursing Practice Act, signed by Gov. Blagojevich in 2004. The Act increased the percentage of license fees that are transferred into the scholarship program. In 2006, there was $1.2 million – an increase of $450,000 – to provide approximately 150 students with financial assistance to pursue an associate degree in nursing, an associate degree in applied sciences in nursing, a hospital-based diploma in nursing, a baccalaureate degree in nursing, a graduate degree in nursing, or a certificate in practical nursing.
- Keeping nurses in Illinois: A new law enables advanced practice nurses to be licensed in more than one specialty without having multiple graduate degrees as long as they have the educational and clinical experience to be nationally certified. This encourages highly trained advanced practice nurses to stay in Illinois by making it easier for them to advance in their careers.
- Establishing a first-in-the-nation externship program: Nurses who are licensed under the laws of another state or territory of the U.S., primarily from Puerto Rico, who wish to practice in Illinois and are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination, are now allowed to work under the direct supervision of a registered professional nurse licensed in Illinois while they are enrolled in a course which prepares them for the licensure exam and acclimates them to nursing and health care delivery in our state. This increases diversity within the nursing profession and prepares nurses educated in a U.S. territory for practice in Illinois.