Conference targets Valley nursing faculty shortage
Posted: 11/02/2006
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To help develop a pool of much-needed nursing faculty for Rio Grande Valley higher education institutions, The University of Texas-Pan American recently joined South Texas College (STC) and The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC) in organizing and hosting a Nursing Faculty Development Conference held in September at South Padre Island.

More than 150 current nursing faculty, potential nursing faculty and university and college administrators attended the three-day workshop that provided information on becoming a successful nursing educator as well as innovative tools for present nursing faculty to be more effective in the classroom and clinical education settings. In addition, the workshop enabled UTPA, STC and UTB/TSC to showcase their individual nursing programs to participants while also providing numerous opportunities for networking.

Nationally-known nursing educator Linda Caputi was the keynote speaker at the conference. Caputi, a professor of nursing at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., has authored more than 25 educational multimedia programs and authored three nursing education books. Her work has won her numerous awards from professional nursing and educational organizations. In 2006, she was elected to the Board of Governors of the National League for Nursing, a leader in advancing excellence at all levels of nursing education throughout the United States.

Caputi provided information on teaching and evaluating students in the clinical setting; using active learning strategies in the classroom; and writing test items to measure higher-level cognitive learning.

The conference was funded through a $350,000 six-month Nursing Faculty Sharing Grant awarded to UTPA by the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA). The grant was co-authored by College of Health Sciences and Human Services Interim Dean Dr. Bruce Reed; Assistant Dean Karen Chandler and Tony M. Casas, special projects coordinator in the College of Health Sciences and Human Services.

The grant also enabled the hiring of a regional recruiter for professional nurses to become nursing faculty as well as faculty research by Dr. Mary Diaz, UTPA assistant professor of nursing, who is studying the issues that prevent more professional nurses from entering the field of nursing education.

Dr. Carolina Huerta, chair of the UTPA Department of Nursing, said UTPA has enough faculty to admit 100 students once a year. However, to address the nursing shortage in the Valley, UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas and other community leaders have set a goal to double the admissions to the UTPA nursing program to 200 per year Huerta said.

"To admit more students we will need one faculty member for every 10 students in order to comply with the Board of Nurse Examiners for the State of Texas rules," she said. "The Island conference is the first step to identifying potential faculty in our community to assist us with increasing our nursing output and help meet some of the nursing shortages in the area."

The grant from VIDA, Casas said, also provided support for an online course titled "Clinical Faculty: A New Practice Role," being conducted Oct.9-Nov. 30 from the Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis School of Nursing for those interested in nursing education. Ninety of the conference participants signed up for the course, offered through UTPA, which focuses on the clinical nursing education and the roles and responsibilities of the faculty member/clinical educator supervising learners in clinical settings. Those successfully completing the course will be eligible to receive a stipend.

"Participants are not being required to teach after all the training, but participants will be encouraged to put their new-found knowledge to use at one of the higher education institutions in the Rio Grande Valley," Casas said.

For more information on the nursing programs in the UTPA Department of Nursing or local initiatives targeting the nursing shortage, call 956/381-3491.