South Jersey Gains Critical Mass for Nursing Education Thanks to Merger

Two nursing programs in southern New Jersey have come together to grow nursing higher education, research, and practice in the region.

On July 1, the legacy University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Nursing at Stratford merged with the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, combining 800 nursing students, 33 full-time nursing faculty, and eight staff members.

“We’re now a unified force and this merger gives us the ability to serve more nursing students in South Jersey better than ever before,” Rutgers–Camden Nursing Dean Joanne Robinson says. “It will contribute to Rutgers–Camden’s emergence as a leader in nursing education and research. The demand continues for well-educated nurses who are expert in addressing complex and diverse health care needs and the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden is well-positioned to educate the next generation of nurses to tackle healthcare challenges and innovations in the 21st century.”

The legacy UMDNJ School of Nursing at Strafford offered two degree programs, an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing and a master of science in nursing, while the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden offers baccalaureate programs for traditional students, registered nurse students, and second-degree students; a doctor of nursing practice program; certification in school nursing; and graduate-level certification in wound ostomy continence nursing.

Marie O’Toole, the former associate dean for academic affairs for the legacy UMDNJ School of Nursing and now senior associate dean for faculty and student affairs at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, says the merger “opens up brand new opportunities that legacy UMDNJ students never had in the past, such as working with a large research faculty while engaging in service learning opportunities and global initiatives that have always been of interest to them.”

Furthermore, the newly unified full-time faculty now includes 27 members who hold a terminal degree, which Robinson says is of particular importance to advancing the teaching, service, and scholarship missions of Rutgers–Camden.

Janice Beitz, professor and director of the Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Education professional certificate program, calls the merger a tipping point in the way nursing education is delivered in South Jersey.

“It increases the number of students, it increases the versatility of the faculty, and it represents an opportunity to move health care in South Jersey forward,” Beitz says. “We will have more graduates at the baccalaureate level than ever before and there is tremendous potential that comes along with that. The region will benefit from our best and brightest.”

The merger answers the demand of a growing population of students seeking nursing education in South Jersey, Robinson says. She notes that jobs for registered nurses are expected to increase 19 percent within the next eight years and healthcare agencies across the nation are working toward a recommendation by the Institute of Medicine that nurses with a bachelor’s degree constitute 80 percent of the nursing workforce by 2020.

Historically, potential applicants to baccalaureate and advanced degree programs left Southern New Jersey to pursue nursing degrees elsewhere, O’Toole says.

“Hospitals in southern New Jersey are in need of nurses who are prepared at the baccalaureate level, and preparing them in South Jersey can contribute to their staying in South Jersey, creating an infusion of nurses in area hospitals, health care agencies, and home care agencies,” O’Toole says. “We want to show that this is a great place for nurses to work.”

The merger of the legacy UMDNJ School of Nursing at Stratford with the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden is part of the 2013 integration of Rutgers with the schools, centers, and institutes that made up the majority of the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Since then, faculty and staff at the Stratford campus had been working with Rutgers–Camden faculty to unify academic programs and personnel.

“Our ability to focus on the needs of our communities in southern New Jersey as an autonomous School of Nursing has created transformative opportunities for nursing students here and the merger with the legacy UMDNJ program builds on those opportunities,” Robinson says. “We’re also looking forward to collaboration with other Rutgers nursing units to promote growth within the larger structure of the university.”

More information about the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden is available at nursing.camden.rutgers.edu.

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