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New Nursing School in New Jersey: William Paterson School of Nursing Opens Its Doors

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated September 25, 2023
Edited by
    William Paterson opened a new school of nursing, using creative strategies to recruit, engage, and graduate nurses to help the nursing shortage.
    Nursing students smiling in a classroomCredit: Getty Images
    • William Paterson University opened a new nursing school in August 2023, enrolling 600 new undergraduate students.
    • The nursing program began in 1966 and has grown significantly since 2020 with several new programs.
    • The new programs help improve the experience for working students, which has contributed to the program’s growth.

    The new William Paterson University School of Nursing admitted its first class in August 2023. The nursing school in New Jersey offers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The university is invested in developing programs to positively impact the nursing shortage and advance nursing education. The William Paterson University nursing program first began in 1966 and, until 2020, offered only on-campus learning options.

    The program has experienced exponential growth since 2020 when the university coincidentally began offering an online learning option in the same year as the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes and others prompted the university to separate the nursing program and identify a separate school of nursing.

    “Health care systems need us for their nursing pipeline, and we need them to deliver our educational mission through teaching and clinical supervision,” said Joshua Powers Ph.D., provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at William Paterson University, in an exclusive interview with NurseJournal.

    William Paterson School of Nursing: An Overview

    Since 2019, the number of students enrolled in the program has more than doubled, rising from 431 in 2019 to 1,058 in 2022. According to Powers, there are 600 new undergraduates in the 2023 class and 1,700 students overall.

    According to the university, the school of nursing offers a fully online RN-to-BSN program and 12 fully online master’s degrees and certificate programs to help meet the needs of working students. Some of the unique educational models at William Paterson have contributed to the rising enrollment.

    The William Paterson University School of Nursing is now one of the largest nursing programs in New Jersey, Powers noted during a newscast on August 25, 2023.

    Between 2019 and 2022, nearly 550 new nurses graduated from the nursing program, many of whom work in New Jersey. As the program grows and expands, that number will only rise.

    Powers believes the pandemic inspired many students to pursue nursing and many current nurses to advance their education.

    [William Paterson] Online’s graduate nursing and RN-to-BSN programs have been the most popular in our online arena,” said Powers. “Not only does William Paterson University have an excellent reputation in the nursing community, we also offer a competitive tuition cost and a seven-week course delivery model via WP Online that is optimally matched to working professionals.”

    Powers went on to describe an educational framework that allows students to be “unusually efficient” as they move from an undergraduate to a graduate degree or from a master’s to a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.

    “In addition, our core on-campus program, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), also offers an accelerated BSN track that serves the needs of students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to come back to college to earn the degree in nursing as well,” he said.

    Powers stressed the need for developing an effective nursing pipeline to support healthcare systems. He believes that through a strong educational mission and clinical supervision, William Paterson University can contribute to reducing the nursing shortage in New Jersey and beyond. The University hopes to leverage the school of nursing as a catalyst to support public policy missions to meet the state’s healthcare needs.

    Powers talked about student recruitment and the emphasis on online and hybrid programs to attract a diverse population of students. Currently, William Paterson University uses strategically placed targeted social media ads and digital outreach to reach prospective students.

    As a whole, the university faculty and administration also take part through active participation in organizations, healthcare systems, and regional meetings and events. Additionally, the online programs now comprise the largest segment of students, while the on-campus BSN programs serve traditionally-aged nursing candidates.

    “Moreover, as both a federally designated Hispanic-Serving and Minority-Serving Institution, our University has a majority-minority student population. Thus, we actively engage with communities of color, enrolling and graduating nurses from diverse backgrounds, who are especially needed to serve an increasingly diverse patient population here in New Jersey and around the country,” he said.

    The Student Experience

    The William Paterson University nursing program includes six patient simulation laboratories and three state-of-the-art basic skills labs for on-campus students. Powers described the Nel Bolger RN Simulation Laboratory:

    [It] is all-encompassing and top-notch, offering simulated operating rooms, a labor and delivery room, post-surgical care rooms, and even a home care space complete with a barking dog to simulate what it is like to go into a patient’s home and confront the unexpected,” he said.

    In 2022, the program was affiliated with 50 agencies in the surrounding region, including nursing homes, clinics, public health agencies, and major hospitals and medical centers.

    “Our partnerships with St. Joseph’s Health and Atlantic Health Systems are among our strongest — wherein we collectively and passionately share the goal and strategic vision to find ways to counter the nursing labor shortage in New Jersey and beyond,” said Powers.

    Minerva Salinas Guttman, EdD, RN, APN, was named the founding associate dean of the school of nursing. She brings her knowledge and experience about expanding strategic partnerships with healthcare providers. Powers noted that these partnerships are critical to developing clinical sites for nursing schools in New Jersey and to encourage licensed nurses to become part of the faculty, which is key to expanding the program.

    “Dr. Guttman’s leadership in nursing curriculum and program development, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and her work in building community, business, and industry connections, will be instrumental as she collaborates with our excellent faculty and administration to further the School’s growth and development, and the success of our students,” Powers said.

    The school of nursing will strongly emphasize partnering with healthcare providers and systems to develop strong clinical placement opportunities. Plans for the future also include collaborative grants to support student scholarships and research that serves the community and the nursing profession.

    The school focuses on placing students in settings where they have exposure to underserved communities. It expects to expand those opportunities under the leadership of the new associate dean.

    Another unique opportunity for nurses to advance their education is offered through a collaborative relationship with practicing nurses employed as professors for students’ clinical settings or the classroom. Those nurses then have the opportunity to use the tuition waiver program to advance their degrees.

    “We are also developing a program whereby high school juniors and seniors can earn dual enrollment academic credit and be employed in hospitals or other clinical settings at the same time, providing them the skills for that position through their coursework, such as in phlebotomy, for instance,” Powers explained.

    William Paterson University is also focused on building on allied health professions that serve a broader healthcare need in a state with an unusually large number of retiring baby boomers. A growing need for senior mental health, geriatric care, and rehabilitation are areas where the university hopes to serve the community more fully moving forward.

    Portrait of Joshua B. Powers, Ph.D.

    Joshua B. Powers, Ph.D.

    Joshua B. Powers, Ph.D., is provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. He is a scholar of higher education leadership with a strong record of developing and implementing programs that foster student success and enhance campus diversity. Provost Powers was the driving force in establishing William Paterson’s new school of nursing, creating a robust offering of professional licensure and certification programs that undergraduates can pursue in tandem with their baccalaureate studies and dramatically expanding the University’s highly regarded online degree programs for adult learners. He has previously served as an administrative fellow for the Vermont State Colleges System and held leadership positions at Indiana State University and the University of Virginia.