The characters on “The Brady Bunch” thought they had it tough trying to unite three boys and a father from one family with three girls and a mother from another.
So imagine what its like trying to integrate all of the students, faculty and staff from two large nursing programs.
That was — and still is the enormous task facing administrators at Rutgers and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey when it became clear last year the two schools would merge under the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, which took effect July 1 this year. Those overseeing the integration of the two nursing programs are doing so with optimism and an eye on a brighter future for Rutgers.
Among those is William Holzemer, RN, PhD, FAAN, dean and distinguished professor, Rutgers College of Nursing, Newark, N.J. The restructuring act established the Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences division with the intent of building the biomedical health research capacity of Rutgers. Nursing was not the focus of the merger, Holzemer said, but its those nursing programs that face the trickiest path.
The merger brought six independent schools into Rutgers from UMDNJ that were freestanding schools, Holzemer said. Only the nursing schools are required to integrate their programs into one.
“Our faculty have different union contracts, different workloads,” he said. “We have complementary and overlapping curriculum. We have to restructure our faculty, harmonize our curriculum, decide, physically, where were going to be placed — many, many issues that other folks just dont have to deal with.”
Although that has meant a seemingly endless stream of meetings for Holzemer to attend the past 12 months, he is confident all that hard work will have been worthwhile.
“Well be one of the largest nursing programs in the country and have the potential to really make big impacts not only in the state of New Jersey but I think nationally and globally because of this,” Holzemer said. “I think it will position us strategically in a fabulous way. Its going to take some time to get the benefits and get over the craziness, but I think its a great future for Rutgers nursing.”
Sharing Holzemers sense of anticipation is Susan Salmond, RN, EdD, ANEF, FAAN, dean and professor, Rutgers School of Nursing. Salmond served as dean of the UMDNJ School of Nursing, Newark, for most of the past seven years.
“I think its a really exciting opportunity for all the programs to look at what should be shared, what should be unique,” Salmond said. “How do we bring curriculum together? How do we maximize our clinical services? So I think its a tremendous opportunity for Rutgers … to really be innovative and proactive in looking at what nursing needs to be as we move into the future.”
The announcement of the merger created some uncertainty among nursing students, especially those at UMDNJ. But Salmond said the hard work of the transition teams has alleviated most of the students concerns.
“That was the goal all along, that it would be a seamless transition, and I do think from the students perspective it was,” Salmond said. “Probably the biggest question we got was, ‘Will my diploma say UMDNJ? Ive done most of my work at UMDNJ. Early on we made those arrangements that the summer graduating class would say UMDNJ and forthcoming it would be Rutgers.”
Ray Scarpa, RN, DNP, AOCN, APN, president of the UMDNJ School of Nursing Alumni Association and supervisory APN, Department of Surgery, Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, is experiencing uncertainty of his own. He wonders what will happen to some of the programs he established in the alumni group. But he also is excited about the prospects for nurses in New Jersey as a result of the integration.
“Weve had nursing faculty that sit on the state board of nursing both at Rutgers and at UMDNJ,” Scarpa said. “Their insights into the politics within our state are definitely going to affect nursing policy and how nurses here, especially advanced practice nurses, are going to be practicing in the future.”
Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.