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 approved by the Senate today by a vote of 34-0.
“New Jersey is facing the effects of a protracted nursing shortage, and quality, well-trained nursing professionals are at a premium,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “The Collaborating Center for Nursing has served as a clearing house for best practices in nursing, helping to keep our healthcare professionals ahead of trends in technology and changes in medical care policy. We must provide the resources so that the Center can continue its mission of equipping nurses for the challenges they face in the 21st Century.”
“The Collaborating Center for Nursing has been an integral partner in promoting the best, most efficient health care possible in the Garden State,” said Senator Weinberg, Vice Chair of the Health Committee. “However, as a line item in the State budget, funding for the Center is largely discretionary, and subject to the whims and fiscal pressures faced by the sitting Governor, whoever he or she may be. This bill ensures guaranteed funding so that, even in difficult times, the Center can continue its important work to improve health care in New Jersey.”
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.
“The Center for Nursing should be focused solely on health care, and not subject to the shifting politics of New Jersey,” said Senator Vitale. “Rather than using the Center as a source for political payback and patronage, we must provide for a stable, results-based environment to expand the best practices in our State’s hospitals and health care facilities. By giving the Dean of the College of Nursing sole authority to appoint members, we would ensure the most qualified medical professionals work with the Center for Nursing to promote and improve health care in the Garden State.”
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.
“I think this year’s budget demonstrates, more than any other time in New Jersey history, that even vitally important programs in the State are subject to cuts as we try to make up for years of poor fiscal planning and economic downturns,” said Senator Weinberg. “The Center for Nursing performs such a necessary function in keeping healthcare at the cutting edge of best practices and medical technology. With statutorily dedicated funding, outside of the annual General Budget, the Center can continue its important work to make the most of our State’s health care resources, without burdening the Budget.”
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.
“The Center for Nursing has been a vital partner in improving health care, by ensuring that New Jersey has a well-trained, well-educated nursing workforce to serve in our hospitals and health care facilities,” said Senator Vitale. “Through this measure, we would be giving the Center the fiscal stability and administrative freedom to continue its mission, and prepare the State’s nurses for the future of health care.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration. It was approved unanimously by the Senate Health Committee in March.