I apologize for the delay in getting this update out to you.
Just days before the Senate hearing, Governor Christie announced appointments to fill the vacant positions at the Board of Nursing. The problems go beyond vacancies on the board. Long standing problems that have spiraled out of control include a chronic lack of professional staff which has far reaching consequences. One example included the report that nursing programs that should have been closed due to a high failure rate on the licensing exam remain open because of the lack of a full time director of education. Testimony lasted all day and the committee was truly interested in the testimony and concerns provided by more than a dozen nursing professionals throughout the state, including former Executive Director of the BON, Dr. Dorothy Carolina.
I provided testimony as president of NJSSNA and Judy Woop provided testimony as our Executive Director. We emphasized the challenges school nurses face working in an education setting under school law but still obligated and bound by nursing law. Although the focus was on the current situation at the BON we were afforded the opportunity to explain the school nurse consultant position at the DOE was never attempted to be filled and remains vacant since Christene Dewitt-Parker retired more than 2 years ago. My testimony follows:
In July 2017 Governor Christie took action on legislation by signing (S2058/A671). This bill added two nurse educators to the state Board of Nursing. Assemblywoman Munoz was one of the sponsors of the bill. This bill demonstrated an understanding by the legislature that giving nurse educators a voice on the board would help support a thorough and comprehensive nursing education that would benefit the public and impact the nursing care they receive.
The signing of this bill would be interpreted by most that the Governor is supportive of nursing and nursing practice. As you know, the reality is, the governor failed to name these appointees or fill the vacancies on the board until September 30, 2017. In addition paid positions have remained vacant due to a hiring freeze. These positions are essential in order for the Board of Nursing to meet its obligations. You certainly don’t need me to outline the duties and responsibilities of the Board of Nursing but I do want to explain how these unfilled vacancies impact school nurses and the students we care for.
The school nurse’s role is multifaceted. Student-centered nursing care occurs within the context of the students’ family and school community. School nurses provide care to an increasing number of students with complex medical conditions. Health care in the school is more complex than ever. A reliable resource is needed when questions or concerns arise regarding legal interpretation of code and statutes. Examples include requested administration of non FDA approved medications or off label use of medication. School districts work with legal counsel specializing in education law, not nursing or public health law.
There is no longer a school nurse consultant at the DOE to respond to these questions. Our association and all nurses need an informed, reliable resource at the Board of Nursing to answer questions and concerns that require interpretation of code, statute, and nursing law. School nurses want to ensure the delivery of safe and responsible care and requires a resource with tacit knowledge and understanding of nursing laws of the State. Although I am representing school nurses, these positions are needed to support all nurse and protect the health and safety of the public.
The Board of Nursing licenses and regulates nursing practice for all nurses in the state. NJSSNA appreciates your concern and support as you work to ensure the public health and safety by supporting the work of the Board of Nursing. The governor has taken initial steps by announcing his most recent appointments to the board. I am requesting that you ensure these appointees assume their position on the board and the vacant salaried positions are filled, including the Deputy Executive Director. Thank you for listening to our concerns and seeking solutions by listening to information that supports a better understanding of the current situation.
Lorraine Borek, MSN,MEd, RN, CSN-NJ
J&J School Health Leadership Fellow
Hillsborough School District
Our association will continue to keep you posted regarding legislation issues that impact school nursing and nursing in general. If you would like to read additinal details regarding the hearing please go to http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/10/05/critics-say-chronic-problems-in-nj-nursing-board-are-danger-to-patients/