Nursing program receives $410,000 grant to train nursing educators

Conner Howard

Kent State’s School of Nursing received a $410,000 grant to fund a project designed to address the nationwide shortage of trained nurses.

A new project, known as Online Nursing Education for Non-traditional Faculty, is meant to train professional nurses in the techniques necessary to educate nursing students in online courses. Susan Taft, associate professor and director of the MSN-MBA/MPA dual-degree programs in the College of Nursing, is the driving force behind the project.

“The end goal of the project is to produce more nurse educators,” Taft said. “And that is because we have a very drastic shortage of nurses across the country.”

Most nurses with master’s degrees make more money as a nurse in the service sector than by teaching at universities, making it difficult to recruit nursing educators, Taft said.

Taft’s project aims to create more part-time nursing educators, specifically to teach online. By teaching the part of nursing that can be taught online, these new educators could work through any nursing school in the country.

Richard Day, executive director for corporate & foundation relations at Kent State, said this program could appeal to master’s-prepared nurses who are interested in making extra money by teaching online, while relieving the pressure on thinly spread nursing professors.

“Say you have a master’s in nursing. The course that she (Taft) offers would show you how to teach online and use the online systems to teach effectively,” Day said. “The courses they would teach would be general science courses and general nursing courses which would free up regular faculty to teach the more advanced coursework and clinical work.”

During the grant proposal process, Day acted as a liaison between Taft and the Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future (PIN) program, as well as the other foundations involved.

“Our role here is to work with faculty on developing their grant proposals, and assisting in the writing of their grant proposals and budgets,” Day said. “So we were a resource for Dr. Taft to come to and get the help she needed working on the grant.”

When the project was ready for funding in 2009, Taft submitted grant proposals to the PIN program. The project fit within PIN’s guidelines and after extensive deliberation, as well as an eight-week pilot course to demonstrate the project goals, PIN decided to fund Taft’s project.

“It’s a competitive program,” Taft said. “People all over the program respond to the PIN program invitation, and for this particular cycle, there were 43 proposals submitted initially. Out of those 43, 15 of us became finalists. The foundations made site visits to all the finalists, and we were selected as one of nine recipients. We went through various stages of review before the decision was made, including a whole day site visit with us and all the foundations who were involved.”

Taft said guidelines for project funding dictate that a local foundation must invest 50 percent of the funding. In keeping with these requirements, The Cleveland Foundation and the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation invested a combined of 50 percent of the project’s funding. The other half of the funding is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Northwest Health.

“The Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation also funded the pilot project which happened in the summer of 2009,” Taft said. “They put in almost $50,000 for us to run the pilot project, and without that we could not have successfully competed for the national award.”

When submitting a project-funding proposal, a project budget must be included to detail how the grant money would be spent. In the budget Taft created for her project proposal, half of the money pays for the salaries of the faculty teaching online, while the other half covers 50 percent of tuition for the nursing students taking part in the program.

“The budget is not very complicated,” Taft said. “We have funding for some other things, too, but that’s the bulk of it.”

Taft and Day both feel optimistic about the project, and are grateful to be involved with organizations like The Cleveland Foundation, The Mt. Sinai Foundation and the several others funding the online nursing education project.

“This has been an excellent opportunity for Kent State University to work with The Cleveland Foundation and the Mt. Sinai Foundation and also to reach out and work with the other universities involved,” Day said. “It gives Kent State an opportunity to play a prominent role nationally among nursing colleges and universities.”

“They have been collaborators and encouragers; in terms of what we’re doing, they’ve been very helpful to us. They had ideas we didn’t have,” Taft said. “You never know about these things until you try them out, but we’re all very optimistic.”

Contact Conner Howard at [email protected].