November 13, 2002
HOUSTON, TX - It is a known fact that availability of nursing staff has a significant impact on patient care outcomes. With the decreased enrollment of students into nursing schools the nursing shortage has potential to get much worse before it gets better.
Two major causes behind the nursing shortage are the availability of nurse faculty and decreased enrollment into nursing schools. Clinical care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is concerned about these causes as well as two of its other missions, education and research.
In 1963, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Nursing Service was first in the profession to establish a position for doctorally-prepared nurse researchers, formalizing the research function within VA Nursing Service. Today, 44 nurse principal investigators conduct research within VA full-time, focusing their study and investigation on improvement of patient care. Many more VA nurses are involved in specific research projects.
VHA believes it is imperative that enrollment in nursing schools increase to have an adequate workforce to meet patient care demands currently and in the future. Nursing faculty are aging and their availability is decreasing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is salaries. Recognizing that there is a need for nurses to teach as well as provide clinical care, the Houston VA Medical Center (HVAMC) and local universities are taking bold steps to address these problems.
In FY 1999, VA proposed new nurse qualifications standards and launched a new education assistance initiative to support it. VA committed $50 million to assist VA nurses seeking baccalaureate degrees in nursing and adopted new performance standards requiring a four-year degree for registered nurses by 2005.
Emphasis on education in the VA system has had a positive impact and many of the nurses employed at the HVAMC have either a Master or Doctoral degree.
Just recently, HVAMC nursing staff members have been allowed the time and opportunity to serve as primary nursing faculty for nursing students in their clinical rotations at the VA medical facility. These nurses are very committed and take this additional responsibility very seriously. The nurses have completed orientation for their new responsibilities at local universities and began their additional duties in September. In addition, they continue to carry major clinical functions in their respective roles at the VA.
VA nursing has a very proud history and the HVAMC continues to build upon that legacy in an effort to have available qualified workforce to care for our veterans.
For more than 50 years, Houston VA Medical Center staff has provided clinical training for health care professionals through affiliations with Baylor College of Medicine and 85 other educational and research institutions.
As a member institution of the Texas Medical Center (TMC) since 1985, HVAMC staff members serve on various TMC oversight committees that contribute to improve patient care and hospital operations. Today, an increasing number of HVAMC nursing staff are receiving faculty appointments.
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Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs04/21/04 08:25