TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Loretta Weinberg which would reorganize the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing and provide a permanent funding source was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.
“As New Jersey’s health care facilities try to cope with a prolonged nursing shortage in the Garden State, qualified, well-trained nurses are more important than ever,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Health panel. “The Collaborating Center for Nursing has been on the frontlines of medical care in New Jersey, offering best practices and patient care policies which ensure a safe, productive health care workplace. We need to ensure the Center can continue its mission of improving training options for nurses in the State.”
“The Collaborating Center for Nursing has been a vital resource to enhance health care in New Jersey,” said Senator Weinberg, Vice Chair of the Health Committee. “We want the Center to be able to operate as a needed health care resource without political interference or funding threats. This bill gives the Center the freedom and autonomy to make a difference in health care facilities around the State.”
The bill, S-621, would revise the appointment process for members of the Collaborating Center for Nursing Board. Under current law, the Governor and leaders of both Legislative Houses have the authority to appoint members of the Center’s governing board. This bill would transfer the appointment authority to the Dean of the College of Nursing, in consultation with a three-member appointment committee. The bill would also expand the number of professional nurses from one to three on the 17-member board and increase the term of office from two years to three years on the board.
“As an academic body, the Center for Nursing benefits from experts in the medical field, not political appointees who don’t know their way around an ER,” said Senator Vitale. “Our State’s health care is too important to treat the Center for Nursing as a patronage mill. By giving the Dean of the College of Nursing the authority to appoint members, we would ensure a stronger relationship between the College and the Center, and allow students at the College to take full advantage of the Center’s training tools.”
The bill also provides for a stable funding mechanism for the Center for Nursing. The bill would dedicate 5% of the initial licensing fees and licensing renewal fees charged by the New Jersey Board of Nursing for professional and practical nurses to funding the center. Currently, funding is appropriated as a line-item from the General Fund each fiscal year.
“As we head into yet another tough budget year, State legislators need to look at new ways to fund old priorities,” said Senator Weinberg. “Even a facility like the Collaborating Center for Nursing is not exempt from budget shortfalls and funding lapses, but under this bill, we can guarantee steady, dedicate revenue without burdening the State’s General Fund.”
The Center for Nursing, based at the College of Nursing on Rutgers University’s Newark campus, is a primary source for data-based evidence to establish reliable health care policies that impact nursing care, education and effects positive patient outcomes. The Center has, in the past, served as a catalyst to innovative health care practices and valuable education models for future nurses.
“Whether it’s improving on past nursing practices, or adapting to new technologies, the Center for Nursing has been at the front of advances in nursing education,” said Senator Vitale. “A well-trained, educated nursing workforce is absolutely necessary to the success of our State’s hospitals and health care facilities. Through this legislation, the Center for Nursing will be given the financial support and administrative freedom to keep nurses at the cutting edge of their field for many years to come.”
The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, before going to the full Senate for consideration.