Gov. Chris Christie has named a baker’s dozen of nurses and other observers to serve on the New Jersey Nursing Board, less than a week before lawmakers were scheduled to discuss vacancies and other issues that critics said have long plagued the oversight entity.
Christie’s announcement Friday afternoon included a trio of reappointments and 10 newcomers — a mix of registered nurses, nurse educators, advanced practitioners, and public representatives — to the 15-member panel. The board is charged with licensing a wide variety of nurses and home healthcare workers and regulating the work they do in the Garden State.
The nursing board has come under fire in recent months from nurses and other healthcare advocates — including Senate Democratic leader Loretta Weinberg and her colleague Robert Gordon, both of Bergen County — who joined them in August. Critics have said that the high number of vacancies in the board’s membership has eroded this critical workforce and put patients at risk.
Nurses in limbo
At least six positions were vacant at that point and thousands of potential nurses were waiting in limbo for license approval, they said, a problem that is particularly concerning given the growing need for healthcare providers.
“We’re on the cusp of one of the largest nursing shortages that we’ve had in a long time,” Ann Twomey, president of the Health Professional and Allied Employees union, which represents 13,000 nurses and other workers, said in August. Licensing and regulatory delays, she said, are “not fair to the citizens of this state.”
In the spring of 2016, Gordon also raised concerns about the slow pace in the board’s process to approve licensing for home health workers, typically low-paid workers who play a key role in keeping patients in their homes.
Leaders at the state Division of Consumer Affairs, the branch of the state attorney general’s office that oversees the nursing board and 46 others, has defended the panel’s operation. Licenses are approved in days, not weeks, officials said in August, and the board absorbs more staff and other support personnel than other licensing groups. Several of the vacancies were the result of a law expanding the board’s members, which took effect earlier in the summer, they noted.
But the concerns remained significant enough to prompt the Democratic lawmakers, Senate majority leader Loretta Weinberg and her colleague Robert Gordon, both from Bergen County, to hold a hearing on the nursing board before the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, which they lead. The session, announced last week, is scheduled for this Thursday.
“While we are grateful for him filling board seats and eliminating all board vacancies, the timing seems a bit uncanny” given Thursday’s oversight hearing, noted Benjamin Evans, an advanced practice nurse with a doctorate who heads the New Jersey State Nurses Association. Evans said the appointments are a “step forward” but many issues remain to be addressed, like staffing at the board, funding for its work, and improving the licensing process.
The state nurses association said the board’s president, RN and APN Patricia Murphy, was “relieved of her duties” on Friday — the same day the governor named the new appointments — despite the fact her term had two months left. But the governor’s office challenged that characterization, noting that Murphy was a “holdover” member whose term actually expired in 2014.
Murphy’s concerns about the panel’s staffing and support became known this summer after another member, public representative and social worker Avery Hart, revealed the issues in a letter to lawmakers and nursing advocates.
Evans, with NJSNA, lamented the timing of Murphy’s dismissal, noting she would have been an asset to the new members. “We thank Dr. Murphy and the retiring board members for their service to the nurses and patients of New Jersey, and we look forward to working with the new board to keep moving the practice of nursing forward and safeguarding our patients,” he said.
Also on Friday, the governor reappointed nine individuals — a mix of nursing experts and healthcare consumers — to the 17-member board for the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing, a program established in 2002 to help address leadership and workforce shortages in the field.
A full list of all nursing appointments is below:
NEW JERSEY BOARD OF NURSING
Appoint Donna Lodato, RN (Interlaken, Monmouth)
Reappoint Gina Marie Miranda-Diaz, DNP (North Bergen, Hudson) )
Reappoint James V. Doran, APN, CRNA, MS (Bridgewater, Somerset) )
Reappoint Lucille Ann Joel, Ed.D. (Oradell, Bergen) )
Appoint Irma R. Camaligan, RN (Somerset, Somerset)
Appoint Mary Beth Russell, Ph.D., RN-BC (West Orange, Essex) )
Appoint Dorothy Kozlowski, RN, MSN, APN-C (Westfield, Union
Advanced Practice Nurse
Appoint Robert M. Shearer, CRNA, MSN, APN/Anesthesia (Mullica Hill, Gloucester)
Licensed Practical Nurses
Appoint Michael Milk, LPN (Brick, Ocean) )
Appoint Mariela Zapata, LPN (Cherry Hill, Camden)
Appoint Tayfun Selen, LEED, AP, CPA (Chatham Township, Morris)
Appoint Anne Semanik (Sea Girt, Monmouth)
Executive Branch of State Government Representative
Appoint Alison J. Gibson (Cinnaminson, Burlington)
NEW JERSEY COLLABORATING CENTER FOR NURSING
Practical Nurse Educators Council of New Jersey Representative
Reappoint Evadne Adina Harrison-Madu, Ph.D., MSN, RN (Maplewood, Essex)
Health Care Facility Staff Nurse
Reappoint Michele A. McLaughlin, RN, MSN, CPAN (Bergenfield, Bergen)
New Jersey State Nurses Association Representative
Reappoint Susan H. Weaver, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CRNI (Sparta, Sussex)
Consumers of Health Care
Reappoint Barbara George-Johnson, Esq. (Hillside, Union)
Reappoint Victoria N. Hasser, MSW, LCSW (Somerset, Somerset)
New Jersey Association of Baccalaureate and Higher Degree Programs in Nursing Representative
Reappoint Neddie V. Serra, Ed.D., RN, CNE (East Hanover, Morris)
Association of Diploma Schools of Professional Nursing Representative
Reappoint Susanne Sorace, MSN, RN, CNE (Bayonne, Hudson)
Registered Professional Nurse/NJ League for Nursing
Reappoint Carol Patterson, MSN, BSN, RN, CNE (Somerset, Somerset)
New Jersey Council of Associate Degree Nursing Programs Representative
Reappoint Donna J. Stankiewicz, MSN, RN (Glen Rock, Bergen)