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 Philadelphia, PA, April 16, 2003, Community College of Philadelphia 

Nursing Staff Recruitment and Retention in the VHA System
Community College of Philadelphia
(Andrea Mengel, PhD, RN)

Testimony before the Veterans’ Health Administration Field Hearing Held in Philadelphia, PA, on April 16, 2003

As a lifelong nursing educator, I am very disappointed in the hiring and promotion policy instituted nationwide by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The Nurse Qualification Standard discourages associate degree nurses from working in the Veterans' Health Administration because they cannot advance after two or three years of working as a Registered Nurse.  With numerous choices of workplace opportunities, why would an associate degree graduate choose to work in the Veterans' Health Administration when the hiring and promotion policy holds them back?  Community College of Philadelphia has graduated over 300 Registered Nurses in the past four years.  Not one of these Registered Nurses chose a position with the Veterans’ Health Administration.  The Veterans' Health Administration is losing an invaluable opportunity to recruit nurses from Community College of Philadelphia and other associate degree programs.  These nurses are excellent, professional nurses who wish to provide patient-side care as well as to advance in their careers.

Community College of Philadelphia supports higher education and continuing education opportunities for all nurses in an inclusive model that promotes articulation of the nursing student at all levels from nursing assistant to practical nurse to associate degree nurse to baccalaureate and master’s degree/graduate level.  We know that the majority of nursing graduates earn an associate degree.  In addition, we know that:

  • The NCLEX-RN examination pass rate for RNs with associate degrees in nursing is equal to the pass rate for RNs with baccalaureate degrees in nursing.
  • The numbers of minority students receiving associate degrees in nursing is increasing. 
  • Community colleges educate the majority of nurses in rural settings.
  • RNs educated by community colleges are more likely to stay in their communities to practice nursing. 
  • Associate degree RNs represent more than one quarter of the students enrolled in baccalaureate schools of nursing.
  • Community colleges offer cost effective and accessible nursing education programs. 

To continue to provide high quality nursing care for clients, I recommend that the Veterans’ Health Administration adopt the following hiring and promotion strategies:

  • Employ new associate degree graduates at the same level as baccalaureate nurses.
  • Provide promotion opportunities for all RNs based on performance and continuing education.

Offered by
Andrea Mengel, Ph.D., R.N.
Head, Department of Nursing
Community College of Philadelphia

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