A group of Keuka College nursing students attended the New York State Fair but not to play games, ride the Ferris wheel, or take in the Grace Potter or Luke Bryan concerts.
The students—all registered nurses (RNs) pursuing bachelor’s degrees at Keuka’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) sites at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Onondaga Community College (OCC)—were there to encourage fellow nurses to follow in their footsteps.
According to Associate Professor of Nursing Carolyn Christie-McAuliffe, the students completed their Field Period, an annual 140-hour required internship, by securing a booth at the fair promoting the Future of Nursing organization.
“The main goal of the Future of Nursing booth was to show the public what the nursing future looks like, and encourage nurses with their RN to go back to school and earn their bachelor’s degrees,” said Christie-McAuliffe, who serves as co-regional leader of the Central New York chapter of the Future of Nursing.
“I am in my 33rd year of nursing and until now, I have hesitated to be involved with any nursing group,” said Christie-McAuliffe. “But the Future of Nursing is different. I think it represents all nurses equally, no matter what their level of education. The Future of Nursing organization provides opportunity for leadership and direction for nursing within the health care system.”
And the Fair was a perfect vehicle to deliver the message.
According to Christie-McAuliffe, the students developed and provided information on specific schools for the various regions of the state; tips for adult students such as time management tricks; and information on how to obtain scholarships and loans to fund their continued education.
“The majority of RN visitors to the booth were clearly interested in pursuing their education, which we want to continue to encourage and support,” said Christie-McAuliffe.
In 2008, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation approached the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to propose a partnership between the two organizations. The resulting collaboration became the two-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the IOM. Its goal was to look at the possiblitiy of transforming the nursing profession to meet the challenges of a changing health care landscape. The report produced by the committee, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, makes specific and directed recommendations in the area of nurse training, education, professional leadership, and work force policy.
Through the initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports the research agenda set forth by the report and implements the recommendations in the areas of nurse training, education, professional leadership, and work force policy. New York state was designated one of five initial pilot regional action coalitions to advance the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.
“One those recommendations—that RNs seek to further their education—was featured at our booth,” said Christie-McAuliffe. “In fact, the Future of Nursing has a goal that by 2020, 80 percent of all nurses will have their bachelor’s degrees. St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse has begun requiring all RNs to sign a pledge to complete their bachelor’s degree in a certain number of years.
“In addition to this requirement, the hospital also financially supports their nurses to pursue their continued education,” added Christie-McAuliffe. “Decisions by health care institutions such as this encourages nurses to obtain their bachelor’s degrees. In part, because hospitals like St. Joseph’s are making these investments, it is evidence that patient outcomes are improved when higher percentages of RNs in the institution have bachelor’s degrees.”
The students “were charged with everything pertaining to the booth, from initiating the contract with the state fair, soliciting volunteers from across the state, soliciting funds, and developing and distributing literature,” said Christie-McAuliffe. “They also openly shared their experiences as a nurse and as a student with visitors to the booth. From this experience, the students will take what they have learned to their classes and places of employment. They will also analyze the results of the event for future recommendations and create a manual for next year.”