George Mason Joins Partnership to Address Region’s Nursing Shortage

Posted: June 24, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

George Mason announced yesterday its involvement with the Northern Virginia Health Care Workforce Alliance to establish a long-term strategy for addressing the shortage in the region’s health care workforce. The alliance, now known as NoVa HealthFORCE, includes leaders from the region’s business, academic, and health care communities.

The call to action is based on a recent study commissioned by the alliance that focuses on three objectives: increase capacity within the health care education and training system; develop and sustain an ongoing supply of people interested in entering health care career fields; and nurture innovation.

According to the study, the health care workforce shortage in Northern Virginia is significantly affecting quality of life. The shortage is projected to increase to more than 16,000 vacant positions by 2020.

Mason’s College of Nursing and Health Science (CNHS) will lead the university’s involvement in the partnership, and will focus on building capacity in the master’s degree and doctoral programs to educate the next generation of nurse educators. “We know from the study that one of the challenges facing the industry is the shortage of faculty members to teach new students,” says CNHS Dean Shirley Travis. “We’re addressing that need by building a program to prepare future nurses to teach as well as practice.”

CNHS is considering expanding its programs into Loudoun and Prince William Counties, which would potentially increase the number of graduates. This proposal results from the study’s finding that while most of the projected population growth and corresponding increase in medical treatment facilities will occur in the western and southern parts of the region, all of the region’s nursing and allied health programs are located in the northern and eastern areas.

The study also found that the adoption of technology in health care has not kept pace with other industries. Mason, however, has been identified as a leader in health information technology programs to address technological innovations in health care delivery in the region, aligning education, health care and technology industries, and economic development authorities.

The nursing shortage is attributed to such variables as significant population growth; increased demand for health care services because of aging populations; concurrent aging of the health care workforce; a shortage of nursing and allied health profession faculty, schools, and clinical training sites; low unemployment; and high cost of living.

Among the organizations represented at the alliance’s announcement were Fairfax County Public Schools, Inova Health System, the Meyer Foundation, Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia Hospital Center, Northern Virginia Technology Council, Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board, and Virginia House Appropriations Committee.

NoVa HealthFORCE engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct the study. Additional information on the study and the alliance’s recommendations can be found at www.novahealthforce.com.

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