Ramapo College of New Jersey Uses $1 Million Grant to Start Accelerated Nursing Program

Elizabeth Morrill, MHS, RN
Updated February 2, 2024
Edited by
    Ramapo College of New Jersey received a $1 million grant to launch a new accelerated nursing program to address the NJ nursing shortage.
    Nursing students working on patient simulation
    • Ramapo College of New Jersey launched a new accelerated nursing program, which allows qualified students to get their bachelor of science in nursing in 16 months.
    • The program is made possible by a $1 million grant championed by two state lawmakers.
    • New nursing programs, such as the one at Ramapo, can address ongoing nurse shortages by graduating more qualified candidates more expeditiously.

    Ramapo College of New Jersey recently launched a new accelerated nursing program allowing qualified students to obtain bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees in as little as 16 months.

    Funds for the program, officials said, came as the result of a legislative resolution co-sponsored by State Senator Joe Lagana and Assemblywoman Lisa Swain. The grant specifically addresses the pressing shortage of nurses in New Jersey.

    “Funding accelerated nursing programs like these will open the door to aspiring, qualified nursing students, and help bridge critical gaps in our workforce,” Swain told NurseJournal. “By enabling a quicker launch of trained professionals into the field, New Jersey can alleviate the strain on existing healthcare professionals, reduce patient-to-nurse ratios, and enhance the overall quality of life for everyone — patients and nurses alike. Securing this funding in the budget is not just proof of the State’s investment in higher education; it’s proof of our investment in the health and stability of our communities and our entire healthcare system.”

    As part of this resolution, Ramapo will receive $1 million to develop the program, add more nursing simulation rooms, and hire new faculty.

    The nursing shortage in New Jersey is acute. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic-related burnout and growing demand for healthcare services, nurses are leaving the field at an unprecedented rate. Without intervention, the New Jersey Hospital Association projects a shortage of 11,400 nurses by 2030.

    Staffing shortages came to a head in August 2023 when nearly 2,000 NJ nurses went on strike to protest unsafe staffing ratios at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The strike lasted over 120 days, drawing national attention, including support from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

    “The strike reflected the stressors in healthcare at the moment. While staffing and staffing ratios have been an issue for a long time, those problems intensified due to the COVID pandemic,” says Ramapo Assistant Dean of Nursing Kathy Burke, PhD, MA, BSN.

    But to achieve better nurse-to-patient ratios, there needs to be more nurses available for hire. According to Burke, the accelerated nursing program at Ramapo is the next step in building a robust pipeline of qualified nurses.

    “We have one of the larger nursing programs in the state. The accelerated program will add 40 students to the roughly 110 students who graduate from our traditional program every year,” said Burke.

    Applications for nursing school slots have grown since the pandemic, suggesting that aspiring nurses are not deterred by potentially tough work conditions. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, enrollment in BSN programs grew 5.6% in 2020 and 3.3% in 2021.

    Burke says that applications for their traditional nursing program are higher than ever. “COVID put nursing on the forefront. People all of a sudden recognized that these women and men are phenomenal and thought, ‘I want to be part of that.’”

    Accelerated nursing programs, also known as second-degree programs, are designed for students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in another specialty.

    Accelerated BSN programs can be intense and may not be suitable for every learner. Students complete nursing-related coursework and clinical hours on a much shorter timeline than four-year degree programs. But for students looking for the fastest path to employment as a registered nurse, accelerated programs can provide a practical and cost-friendly alternative to longer programs.

    The accelerated program at Ramapo is a full-time, in-person degree program open to students with non-nursing degrees. It also accepts students with at least 60 credits from another accredited institution.

    According to officials, one key perk of Ramapo’s nursing program is the cost. At about one-third the price of private nursing programs, it can be a more affordable route to a career in nursing. Special scholarship programs, for example, can be a win-win, adding extra incentive for nurses to stay and practice in New Jersey after graduation.

    “We’ve got a tremendous relationship with our clinical partners,” Burke said. “One of our clinical partners provides full scholarships to select nursing students who commit to working at least three years within their hospital system.”

    Like most accelerated programs, Ramapo requires several science prerequisites for admission. Students without these prerequisite courses can enroll in an eight-month bridge program at Ramapo. Bridge classes take place at night and on weekends using a hybrid format, allowing students to continue their employment as they prepare for the full accelerated program.

    The Ramapo accelerated nursing program grant was approved last fall, and the first cohort of students will start classes this May. When asked how the accelerated program came together so quickly after news of the grant became official, Burke took a moment to reflect.

    [of Ramapo College] came to us with the notion of the funding, we said, ‘This is what we need to do to meet the needs of nurses in New Jersey.’”