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Merger brings Rutgers nursing schools together

Friday July 25, 2014
At a joint faculty retreat, educators from Rutgers’ College of Nursing and School of Nursing held a cake cutting to celebrate the pending merger of the two schools. From left are Amita Avadhani, RN, assistant professor, SON; Frances Munet-Vilaro, RN, associate professor, SON; Susan Salmond, RN, dean and professor, SON; William L. Holzemer, RN, dean and professor, CON; Barbara Cannella, RN, clinical associate professor, CON; and Charlotte Thomas-Hawkins, RN, associate professor, CON.
At a joint faculty retreat, educators from Rutgers’ College of Nursing and School of Nursing held a cake cutting to celebrate the pending merger of the two schools. From left are Amita Avadhani, RN, assistant professor, SON; Frances Munet-Vilaro, RN, associate professor, SON; Susan Salmond, RN, dean and professor, SON; William L. Holzemer, RN, dean and professor, CON; Barbara Cannella, RN, clinical associate professor, CON; and Charlotte Thomas-Hawkins, RN, associate professor, CON.
(Photo courtesy of Rutgers University)
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Rutgers’ two nursing education programs are consolidating to bring together faculty, facilities and resources under one comprehensive school within Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
“We will be, together, a full complement nursing school, having all of the major specialties and degrees available,” said William Holzemer, RN, PhD, FAAN, dean of the combined Rutgers School of Nursing in Newark, N.J. “The synergy will be great.”
The changes came about as a result of the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, which went into effect in 2013, integrating Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, with all units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden will remain an independent entity because of its location and the way the legislation was written.
Nursing was the only academic program offered by both schools. Combining the two programs, Rutgers will offer nurse midwifery and nurse anesthetist tracks. The school will offer nurse practitioner programs at the DNP level but not at the master’s level. Students currently enrolled in an NP master’s program will be allowed to continue. Clinical sites will continue unaffected. The school said it plans no layoffs.
“It gives us a richer mix of expertise and talent to do our research, our community service and educate our students,” Holzemer said.
Susan Salmond, RN, EdD, ANEF, FAAN, executive vice dean of the consolidated school, explained that both programs had existing clinical practices caring for underserved populations in Newark, including the Focus Clinic, a mobile health van and clinics at three Newark Housing locations. They share an electronic health record system and a license from the state. Students learn in each of those settings.
“We are aligning them and sharing resources,” Salmond said.
Task forces from both schools began working more than a year ago to ensure a smooth transition. They conducted a gap analysis looking at similarities and differences in curriculum, policies and procedures and academic structures. They then proceeded to make consolidation plans.
“Our priority has always been the students, making sure this is a seamless process,” Salmond said.
All incoming students this fall will study a common curriculum. Experts in the field and the entire faculty reviewed each course before approving it. While the original schools both taught similar programs and were accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, their approaches often differed.
The two legacy programs differed as to when they admitted students, with Rutgers admitting students annually, and the legacy UMDNJ admitting three times a year. The new program will admit students twice a year.
“We feel this is a benefit on both sides,” Holzemer said. “It will allow legacy UMDNJ faculty more time for their scholarship and community service work. It will allow our students a more integrated curriculum.”
Rutgers already offered centers of research with professionals from different disciplines who come together to conduct studies. Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences plans to focus on community service and interprofessional education and practice. With nursing’s established centers, Holzemer predicted opportunities will increase.
“We will be the only school in the state of New Jersey that has a comprehensive package available to students,” Salmond said. “What we offer in terms of clinical practice, service learning and nursing science makes it an exciting place for students to learn.”

Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer.


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Getting to know ... Rutgers nursing

The new Rutgers School of Nursing by the numbers:
Students: 1,800 combined
Full-time faculty: 125 combined
Clinical adjunct faculty and volunteer preceptors: 1,000 combined
Academic divisions
Entry to Baccalaureate Nursing Education: generic BSN, accelerated BSN and RN-to-BSN programs
Advanced Practice Nursing: MSN tracks include informatics, leadership, midwifery and nurse anesthetist. Post-master’s DNP tracks include adult and gerontological, family, family with emergency care focus, pediatric, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, leadership, management and clinical.
Nursing Science: PhD programs and centers of research