LI institutions on call as nursing shortage spirals

Is there a nurse in the house: There better be, as the U.S. population steadily ages and healthcare is redefined. Fortunately, Hofstra University and Northwell Health are on the case.

With a national nursing shortage in their sights, Hofstra University and Northwell Health are launching a new undergraduate nursing program on Long Island – and planning a $60 million learning center to house it.

The people who brought you the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra/Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies on Monday announced a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, with the first class slated for the Fall 2021 semester.

Eventually, the program – designed specifically to address a nursing shortage “fueled by an aging population and the growth of community-based healthcare,” according to Hofstra – will be based in a new Science and Innovation Center, boasting state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms for both nursing and engineering students.

That 70,000-square-foot addition to Hofstra’s Hempstead campus, however, isn’t expected to be ready until the fall of 2022. Until then, undergraduate nursing students will make do with the world-class facilities that have housed Hofstra/Northwell’s nursing and physician-assistant programs – including three nurse-practitioner degrees and a graduate degree in cardiovascular sciences – since 2015.

The sooner the new undergraduate nursing program can launch, the better, according to Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, who recognizes both a desperate societal need and “a natural evolution of our partnership with Northwell.”

Stuart Rabinowitz: Dramatic changes in nursing.

“The healthcare industry continues to change dramatically, transforming roles and creating opportunities for nurses that didn’t exist even just a few years ago,” Rabinowitz said Tuesday. “Together with Hofstra’s School of Health Professions and Human Services, (we) continue to advance our mission of educating the next generation of highly qualified healthcare professionals.”

With the nation already knee-deep in a nursing shortage, the numbers suggest things will only get worse. The U.S. Census Bureau calculates that the number of U.S. citizens ages 65 and over will be 83.7 million by 2050 – nearly double the 43.1 million counted in 2012 – while the U.S. Labor Department projects the national need for registered nurses will spike 12 percent by 2028, compared to 7 percent growth across all other professions.

Answering that call with new nursing-degree programs and hefty infrastructure investments also plays nicely with Long Island socioeconomics. Healthcare is already the Island’s largest private-sector employer, according to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, accounting for 17 percent of all private-sector jobs.

And of course, it’s an in-house boon for New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, the state’s largest healthcare system (by number of patients and providers) and largest private employer (68,000-plus) – though Hofstra/Northwell’s nursing expansion won’t only benefit this region, according to Northwell Health Chief Executive Officer Michael Dowling.

“This new program will help address a chronic shortage of nurses impacting health systems across the country,” the CEO said in a statement. “At the same time, the program will support registered nurses interested in advancing their training to take on other roles in health education, patient navigation, population health management, health technology, clinical research, data analytics and other career paths.”

Nurses will no doubt play key roles in the development of interconnected 5G networks that bolster healthcare through technology. But with the World Health Organization designating 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the spotlight now is on more immediate needs – particularly in New York, where the state Department of Labor projects a 41.6 percent increase in statewide demand for nurse practitioners by 2026.

Immediate needs, and immediate opportunities, noted Kathleen Gallo, founding dean of the Hofstra/Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies.

“Registered nurses are the pipeline for advanced-practice nurses, nursing faculty, nurse leaders and nurse scientists,” Gallo said. “This new undergraduate nursing program will help ensure that the next generation of RNs is highly competent, well-educated and responsive to the ongoing, transformative changes occurring in our nation’s healthcare delivery system.”