January 10, 1997

Pathfinder Meeting: Questions & Answers

Continuing this week in the Reporter, VUMC leadership answers questions submitted by faculty and staff following the recent meetings outlining the institution's strategic direction.

This week's questions were answered by Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing and William N. Hance, Director of the Office of News and Public Affairs.

How will the planned Family Medicine Department integrate its goals with those of the Nurse Practitioner programs of the School of Nursing?

Jacobson – First of all, it should be clear that we want to see integration between Family Medicine and Nurse Practitioner programs. Integration should ideally be in all three areas of VUMC's mission – education, research and patient care. When the new chair of Family Medicine is selected (which is forthcoming) this process can begin.

With the rising costs of tuition and expenses to attend medical and nursing school and the decrease of the availability of funds, what solutions are being considered to assist students' needs?

Conway-Welch – The School of Nursing is sensitive to the rising cost of tuition. The school's tuition of $7,486 per semester is in the middle range of our competing schools. We are always identifying opportunities for "loan forgiveness" programs whereby a student can contract with a federal program such as the National Health Service Corp. or a state program which recruits students to work in under-served areas. In return for their efforts, a portion of the principal of their loan is paid each year by the employer. We are also constantly attempting to identify donors who are interested in contributing endowed dollars, of which the interest can be used for scholarship support. Finally, we have established an internal School of Nursing loan program which loans money to students at 5 percent interest, with the understanding that the student will pay the loan back after they graduate. We have taken dollars from our operating budget for several years to fund this loan program, and expect that by the year 2003 the loan program will be fully funded and self-sustaining.

Since the medical and nursing schools bring such a large financial burden upon the money making endeavors at VUMC, are there plans to try to get more grants and donations?

Conway-Welch – The School of Nursing does not create any financial burden to VUMC. In fact, it contributes additional dollars to "shared cost" at the medical center which includes start-up costs at Vanderbilt Health Systems. In addition, our nurse practitioner clinics are adding to VUMC's primary care volume.

Are there any plans to increase the size of the nursing Ph.D. programs, such as number of students admitted?

Conway-Welch – The School of Nursing plans to maintain the size of the nursing Ph.D. program at approximately five-to-seven students, usually admitted every other year. It is our intent to offer a small, elegant program of extraordinary quality where each incoming student is mentored by at least one faculty member with externally funded research. This allows our Ph.D. students to have a personal and almost tutorial education, which we think is the best preparation for their futures.

How does the School of Nursing support the bedside nurse?

Conway-Welch – With the changes in the industry, I do not know anymore exactly how someone defines "bedside nurse." Many bedside nurses are, in fact, masters-level prepared and reflect the skills taught in our program. These masters-prepared nurses also offer guidance and leadership to nurses with a variety of other educational preparations who are also at the bedside. Because of our unique bridge program, Vanderbilt also offers the diploma and associate degree nurse who is at the bedside the opportunity for an efficient pathway to achieve a masters degree in nursing with advance practice skill. We also offer a high quality direct entry pathway for the BSN nurses interested in the specialty portion alone.

with the changes in the health care industry, we are actively exploring additional lifelong learning opportunities for nurses with all levels of education via interactive, computer-assisted instruction and the Internet. Some of these courses will carry academic credit, while others will be available for continuing education units. The Pew Commission has said that two-thirds of the nurse workforce in the country are associate degree and diploma-prepared nurses who were not prepared in their education system for all the changes the industry is fostering on all of us. Vanderbilt also plans to offer lifelong learning support for these nurses in the workforce as well.

What is VUMC doing to improve community awareness of the good things that the medical center is doing for the community?

Hance – Vanderbilt people are active in this community in countless ways, large and small – both as part of their jobs and as part of their volunteer efforts.

VUMC's News and Public Affairs office works daily – 365 days a year – with members of the news media to get the word out both locally and nationally about good news at the medical center. Our own publications, the VUMC Reporter, House Organ and Vanderbilt Medicine, also seek to spotlight programs and people around the medical center that make our community a better place to live. And we send out monthly news releases that are seen by millions of people across the country, including in major markets such as Miami and San Diego.

If you know of a story idea about community service, call the News and Public Affairs office at 322-4747.