The nearly $6 million grant – the second-largest amount in the country - will provide funds for the School of Nursing to train nurse educators

There’s no end in sight for the nationwide shortage of nurses – more than 200,000 openings per year are projected between now and 2031 - and few reinforcements are on the way as more than 90,000 nursing school applicants were turned away in 2021 because there aren’t enough people to teach them.  

Now, the U.S. Department of Labor has just announced plans to fix the problem, and it’s turning to the MGH Institute of Health Professions and its affiliation with Mass General Brigham for help.  

The MGH Institute, Mass General Brigham’s only degree-granting affiliate, has received a nearly $6 million dollar grant to train nurse educators, making it the only educational institution in New England to receive a share of the Department of Labor’s $78 million effort to build up and diversify the nation’s nursing pipeline.  Comprised of 25 universities and hospitals across the country, the Nursing Expansion Grant Program is giving $5.885 million to the MGH Institute over five years, the second largest grant in the country.  

“This is what we do – prepare the next generation of nursing leaders; it’s what the IHP has been doing for decades and this is simply an extension of that,” said School of Nursing Dean Dr. Kenneth White who is also President of the American Academy of Nursing. “Focusing on the numbers of nurses is not the only solution; we have to focus on the number of instructors, and that’s what this grant is doing.” 

The grant money will pay the full tuition and expenses of 224 nurses within the MGB healthcare system and other academic institutions in the region who enroll in one of the Institute’s three nurse education programs: MS in Leadership in Nursing Education (MS-LNE), Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education (PMC-NE) or Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl) preparation course.  

“When you think about this many nurse educators being trained and multiply that by the impact they could have in a year educating hundreds of future nurses, this is truly a systemic change” said M. J. Ryan, Sr., Director of Workforce Development & Economic Opportunity Human Resources for Mass General Brigham. “I think anything that we can do to make a dent in the thousands of people being turned away from nursing programs, because of faculty limitations, has the potential to be a total game changer.”  

The Department of Labor’s initiative will support workforce education programs in 17 states and address staffing challenges in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The IHP’s primary focus will be to educate nurses who want to teach in nursing programs or be clinical instructors; additional education is now necessary due to the new 2023 Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing (BORN) regulations requiring all nursing faculty to have a master’s degree in nursing or National League for Nursing certification as a nurse educator with expertise in the clinical setting.  

“There’s limited capacity now to train new nurses, and one of the key constraints to increasing nursing pipelines is availability of qualified faculty in nursing schools. Without expanding nursing faculty, you cannot expand nursing classrooms nor grow the workforce that MGB and all health care organizations need now, and in the future,” said Ryan, who collaborated with MGB nurse leaders and the IHP to help initiate the grant application.  

Among the leaders who were critical in this process include Debbie Burke, Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice President of Patient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Maddy Pearson, a Trustee of the IHP, Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services, and Chief Nursing Officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Both were instrumental in engaging key stakeholders and promoting the IHP as the lead organization to apply for this grant. Pearson even spoke with then-Labor Secretary Marty Walsh when he visited Boston this past January.  

"We had a discussion about the need for funding for nursing education and he was supportive,” said Pearson. “I’m thrilled about the grant.”  

The lack of nurse educators is an invisible problem behind the nursing shortage, causing a workforce bottleneck in the following ways: 

  • Colleges and universities can’t admit nursing students without enough faculty 
  • Nursing students can’t complete clinical rotation unless supervised by a certified instructor 
  • A shortage of nursing school graduates affects filling vacancies 

“It slows the entry into the workforce by newly minted registered nurses,” said White. “Supply isn’t meeting the demand. It’s not even close.”  

The IHP will use the grant to educate nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Salem Hospital and Nantucket Cottage Hospital, as well as at Bunker Hill Community College and regional nursing programs.   

“This is helping to make sure that we have nurses who are adequately prepared to take on those instructor roles within the hospital setting,” said Patricia Reidy, co-director of the grant program and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Community Engagement at the IHP. “It will provide options to nurses who may want to pivot to a clinical nurse education role in the hospitals so they can then educate more students at the bedside, or they can support other nurses through professional development at the hospitals.” 

The grant will also help diversify the nursing workforce, a goal the IHP is well-positioned to promote because the school’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion principles are imbedded into the nursing curriculum.  

“As more of our seasoned nurses retire, we're going to need more and more new graduate nurses to fill the void,” said Ryan. “We're facing the loss of a lot of institutional knowledge, so building up our own team of nursing education leaders, well-trained to work with new graduates and be faculty at colleges is more critical now than ever. Having more clinical instructors available will expand our ability to accept new nurse graduates and train them well, ensuring our future as a world class health care organization. Partnering with the IHP to solve one of our most significant staffing challenges demonstrates the power of the MGB system working together.” 

The MGH Institute collaborated with WISSEN, Inc., a consulting firm of Brookline, MA, to write the application. 

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