Rutgers-Camden nursing school program clears accreditation hurdle

A graduate-level wound care certificate program at Rutgers-Camden’s nursing school has cleared the path for accreditation, the school announced Thursday, making it one of only three such programs in the country.

The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society will grant accreditation later this year, said Janice Beitz, the nursing professor who heads the program.

Rutgers-Camden’s program teaches nurses to provide both acute and rehabilitative care for patients with wound, ostomy, and continence care needs. As baby boomers age, demand will increase for ostomy pouches that collect bodily waste, and more patients will face incontinence issues or hard-to-heal wounds.

Accreditation would last seven years; the accrediting organization’s board of directors voted this month to approve the move, pending receipt of final reports.

“You have to have your first students go through. They’re not quite done … they’re finishing up their clinical practice,” Beitz said Thursday. “There will be nothing to bar us from accreditation.”

Rutgers-Camden has six students in its first group; they began classes last fall. This summer, they have been doing both classroom work and clinical work, including bedside care alongside practicing professionals in hospitals and other health-care settings, such as nursing homes.

Those students will graduate later this fall, Beitz said. Another class of students will enter this fall, with 14 currently signed up. (Beitz hopes to see the program max out at around 20 students.)

Students in the program are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing and have a minimum of one year of real-world clinical experience. After receiving their certificate, students will be prepared to sit for a national professional certification exam, Beitz said, and the credits earned are directly applicable to graduate nursing programs — such as Rutgers-Camden’s own doctor of nursing practice program.

Nursing education is reaching ever-higher levels, with bachelor’s degrees becoming a standard for the profession. As that happens, demand grows for graduate programs, Beitz said.

“WOC nursing as a specialty is becoming rapidly advanced practice level, which means the hospital wants to hire somebody who has a master’s degree,” she said.

So the nursing school at Rutgers-Camden, which recently absorbed about 200 students from a former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey school in Stratford, becomes ever more important to regional health care.

The university received a $47 million state grant to build a 119,741-square-foot School of Nursing and science building at Fifth and Federal Streets, part of an “eds and meds” corridor city boosters hope to create linking Rutgers-Camden, Rowan University, Cooper University Hospital, and other institutions in the city.

Rutgers is finalizing designs for that building, and administrators hope to break ground early next spring.

“South Jersey has had a strong need to have advanced education, for South Jersey, based in South Jersey,” Beitz said.

“Health care in New Jersey really needs a shot in the arm,” she said. “And how you can do that is increase the educational level of your nurses.”