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A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh nursing alumna and faculty member is using her skills and experience to help fellow nurses who want to advance their practice.

Jessica Kaufman, ’08, ’13, who earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degrees in nursing from UWO, is training nurses to be Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNL).

“Currently, I still practice as a CNL in the hospital setting as well as teach in the CNL program, which allows me to share my firsthand knowledge and experiences with our students,” said Kaufman, who lives in the Fox Valley and works 24 hours per week at Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton.

Kaufman and Kristi Foshag, who also earned her degrees at UWO, are both instructors and coordinators of the CNL program at UWO. The two took over the program in June 2020, following Diane Park’s retirement.

CNL is the first new role in nursing in 35 years, Kaufman said, adding it was developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in collaboration with nursing education and practice leaders to improve the quality of patient care outcomes.

A CNL is a masters’ prepared nurse with the knowledge, skills and competencies in outcomes management, care coordination, inter-professional collaboration, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, safety, risk reduction and cost containment.

A good CNL, Kaufman said, is a leader at the point-of-care—who is approachable, flexible and respectful and thinks critically, communicates effectively and fosters teamwork and a collaborative work environment.

At UWO, there are two master’s programs: the CNL and the Nurse Educator (NE). Both can teach, but the CNL also has the authority to oversee patient care and find solutions at the unit level.

Nursing educators needed

There is a national shortage of qualified nursing faculty in the United States, said Kathy Elertson, interim post licensure program director.

A report from AACN on 2019-20 enrollment and graduations in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs showed nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applicants in 2019.

The top reason: insufficient numbers of nursing faculty.

Beyond the current faculty shortage, estimates are that up to one-third of those currently teaching will retire by 2025.

Elertson said UWO’s College of Nursing is working to meet the need while finding ways to encourage nurses to seek advanced degrees.

Online convenience

UWO’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) offers opportunities for bachelor’s prepared nurses who are considering career advancement. The program may be completed in two years of full-time or three years of part-time study. The 37-credit program (for NE or CNL emphasis) is 100% online and prepares graduates for entry-level academic roles.

Some students move to a graduate program after completion of a bachelor’s degree; others have been in the profession for decades. Elertson said the blend of students provides robust and dynamic experiential learning within the online classroom setting.

“Our message to anyone considering advancing their career and entering academic nursing is simple: Today is a great day to start moving forward in your career,” Elertson said. “If you enjoy learning, teaching new skills or helping novice nurses progress to experts, academic nursing may be a great option for you to take
your skills to the next level.”

More information on the College of Nursing Graduate Program is available at

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