CALDWELL, NJ - Caldwell University continues to have much to celebrate. As of July 29, it has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation enabling them to partner with St. Joseph’s Healthcare System in order to assist aspiring paraprofessional employees who work at St. Joseph’s to complete the first two years of their liberal arts and science studies before entering nursing clinical courses. The grant was made possible through the New Jersey Health Initiatives Program as part of its New Paths to Professional Nursing cohort. 

According to Caldwell’s Director of Nursing Dr. Marycarol Rossignol, there is much enthusiasm concerning the partnership with St. Joseph’s.  “Working together, we can meet the needs of the students to strengthen their academic success and progression in Caldwell University’s Bachelor of Science in nursing program and contribute to fostering a diverse and educated nursing workforce,” she said.

The grant program, Rossignol explained, will both enhance and advance baccalaureate learning for a select cohort of St. Joseph’s paraprofessional employees who would otherwise lack the appropriate means and resources to enroll in a private institution of higher learning. “This New Paths to Professional Nursing program will provide targeted academic, financial and social support to increase readiness and remove barriers so that the students can pursue their nursing degree,” she said.

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Bob Atkins, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, director of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Jersey Health Initiatives, said they are “delighted to have Caldwell University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare System as part of this cohort of grantees serving as the foundation for us to begin a statewide conversation on the need for a nursing workforce that is both baccalaureate-prepared and representative of the diverse communities they serve.” He explained that “health outcomes improve when nurses have this higher level of education and are culturally diverse, and Caldwell’s partnership with St. Joseph’s Healthcare System demonstrates the commitment and resources to support frontline health care workers who aspire to be nurses.”

The partnership will also offer a unique opportunity to those interested in pursuing a four-year degree, according to Rose Nagle-Girgenti, RN, MA, director of clinical education at the Inter-Professional Education Department at St. Joseph’s. “An important aspect of the grant is the selection of RNs from our existing staff to act as mentors to the chosen students, thereby giving support and assistance in the workplace in addition to the university,” Nagle-Girgenti said. “A place to study and have access to online learning will also be provided. We have a strong commitment to these employees and will do all we can to ensure their success.”