Conference addresses nursing industry concerns

Hayley Odom

University senior Julie Novotny did not know her future profession is misunderstood in the community, she said.

But after attending a conference addressing current dilemmas in the nursing industry, Novotny said, she has become aware of the issue.

“It’s important to stop being invisible,” she said. “I didn’t realize the public didn’t know what nurses do.”

Novotny joined approximately 400 people at the “Summit of Sages” international nursing conference in St. Paul this week. The University helped sponsor the event.

The conference focused on how the absence of nurses’ input in health-care and administrative decisions is affecting the health-care industry. It also addressed the current clinical-nursing shortage and the future nursing faculty shortage.

“A lot of money is going into medical schools, not nursing research,” said Mary Jo Kreitzer, University Center for Spirituality and Healing director and School of Nursing professor.

She said nursing programs do not need to be managed by medical schools to be successful. But, Kreitzer also told the audience the University is no exception to this rule.

The School of Nursing is guided by the Academic Health Center, not the Medical School.

Kreitzer said healing and caring for individuals is a task of nursing, yet is often dominated by doctors and other medical professionals.

For example, she said, she is the only nurse and one of three women on a decision-making board at the University.

Nurses must take their messages “to the streets” for changes to occur within the industry, Kreitzer said.

“Nurses have a lot of ideas and skills when it comes to promoting health care and preventing and treating illness,” said Joanne Disch, School of Nursing dean and Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership director.

“We have to find ways to communicate our messages,” she said.

Disch said the University can support nursing through funds that create new models for teaching students. An example is the School of Nursing’s postbaccalaureate certification program, she said.

People who have a four-year baccalaureate degree in another field can enter the program and are eligible to become registered nurses in 16 months, as long as they have finished the prerequisite courses, she said.

In addition, students who complete the program will also have completed one-fourth of the course work for a master’s degree through the School of Nursing.

“The University needs to support faculty and infrastructure to create more of these kinds of programs,” Disch said.

University nursing doctoral candidate Carolyn Garcia said that despite the current challenges in the field, she’s excited to be a part of the changes that might happen.

“We all go into nursing thinking we want to be a positive agent,” she said. “Even though there’s turmoil and questions like ‘where is nursing?’ we’ll get there.”