South Florida Hospital News
Sunday October 13, 2019
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May 2014 - Volume 10 - Issue 11

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Taking a Non-Traditional Road to Finding Tomorrow’s Nurses

I have been in the nursing profession for over 25 years, and experienced firsthand more waves of changes to our health care system, and more nursing shortages than I can count. Having navigated through these challenges as a nurse practitioner, a nurse educator, a nurse researcher and in my current role as dean of the Florida International University Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences, I can say with some certainty that the current transformation of our healthcare system will present a whole new set of demands and opportunities for nursing.
 
As changes stemming from health care reform, nurse practitioner scope of practice debates and population demographics come to a head, there will be a sustained, strong demand for well-educated nurses with a variety of clinical, technology and management skills, well into the next decade. We will be hard pressed to meet it.
 
Higher education institutions across the country are responding to this call with inspired thinking and creative strategies to revolutionize nursing education. I’ll share with you two approaches that we are finding success with at FIU in the hope of inspiring others to explore and support non-traditional roads to finding and training tomorrow’s nurses.
 
The Foreign-Educated Physician Nursing Degree Program
One of our students at FIU, Isabel Barradas, was an orthopedic surgeon and head of a hospital department for 25 years in her native Venezuela. She speaks three languages and since marrying an American and moving to South Florida more than a decade ago, is also a U.S. citizen. She is a shining example of South Florida’s melting pot of foreign talent, but unfortunately, is also an example of the thousands of foreign-trained doctors who found the barriers to becoming a physician in the U.S. too high. A process that can take years, foreign-trained doctors must verify they meet U.S. education requirements, prove they speak English, and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, all before competing for and completing a residency – again. Because of the time obligation and financial commitment, many foreign-trained doctors choose to work outside the health care industry in the U.S.
 
At FIU we took note of this challenge a decade ago, saw opportunity, and consequently created the Foreign-Educated Physician program (FEP). This accelerated program is the first of its kind in the nation and offers foreign-trained doctors the opportunity to reemerge in the healthcare industry as nurses and nurse practitioners. By giving professionals like Isabel the opportunity to rejoin the health care industry and continue working in the field they are passionate about, we tap an underutilized pool of health care talent and take a step forward in alleviating the shortage of highly skilled nurses while increasing diversity in the nursing workforce.
 
The Medic-to-Nurse Program
Another example of a non-traditional approach to nursing education is the FIU Medic-to-Nurse program. This is a special project funded jointly by the College and a grant from the Health Research Services Administration (HRSA). The goal is to help recent veterans, reservists, and National Guard members with military medical training and service experience qualify for advanced standing credit for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and licensure eligibility as a Registered Nurse (RN). Students like FIU’s own Staff Sgt. Victor Arvizu, who is putting his 20 years as a U.S. Army combat medic toward becoming a registered nurse, can graduate with their BSN in just one year. By taking their real world experience into account, we are able to help veterans re-enter the job market quickly and use their battle-tested medical skills in high-demand areas such as critical care and emergency room nursing.
 
As nurse educators, we are in the position to act and make a major impact on the success of this transformation of our health care system through the quality and quantity of nursing professionals entering and advancing in the workforce. It will take both traditional and non-traditional approaches, and we welcome the ideas and support of all our colleagues in education and practice to make it happen. 
Dr. Ora Strickland is Dean and Professor at the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences. For more information, visit www.cnhs.fiu.edu.  
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