We often talk about giving a voice to our practice. Each of us is presented with opportunities to use our voice, and sometimes telling the story about the impact we have in the lives of our students and the community where we work makes all the difference. However, sometimes that is not enough. We often have to go the extra mile and actively advocate for our profession.
On October 5, Judy Woop, Executive Director of NJSSNA and I will be using our voices to testify before the State Senate Legislative Oversight Committee on the current state of affairs at the Board of Nursing (BON), which is currently facing many challenges. The executive director at the BON resigned in July after only thirteen months on the job. If that were the only issue, it would not necessarily be a red flag. However, a myriad of factors played into her decision and it is imperative that we in the industry work to remedy those concerns.
Hiring at the BON has been frozen and vacant positions remain unfilled. For example, the deputy director position has been vacant for an entire year. The volunteer board is made up of thirteen appointees, and yet only seven positions are filled. The dearth of appointees has had a tangible impact at the monthly meetings, as it's difficult, if not near impossible, to meet a quorum to make much needed decisions.
The BON serves the public (patients) as well as nurses in the state of New Jersey. It protects patients by overseeing the practice of nursing and nursing licensure, which includes registered nurses, advance practice nurses, licensed nurses and certified home health aides. The BON also oversees and supervises the educational programs for these professionals, including school nurse certification programs. The Board vacancies have contributed to a backlog in processing nursing licenses and approval of education programs for nurses, resulting in unfilled nursing staff positions across the state. In addition, the BON/state has not reliably or consistently been able to provide answers from nurses regarding code interpretation, which has an immediate and direct impact the ability of NJ nurses to fulfill their duties and serve their patients.
We must work to use our voices to educate parents, staff and the community about the importance and value of school nurses. It is also just as important to use our voice to speak to the need for government to support the work of the BON. We must fiercely advocate for the state to fill all vacant positions and appoint a full board. School nurses fall under the umbrella of all nurses. We need to have access to the BON to assist in interpreting statutes that deal with health care in school, especially delegation issues.
NJSSNA is using its voice in unison with the New Jersey State Nurse Association to compel the New Jersey State Legislature and the Governor to fill the vacant positions at the Board of Nursing, including filling all vacant positions and appointing board members to fill the thirteen seats. Thank you for your continued support as I speak on behalf our our association.