Barrage of Scholarships to Help Solve Nursing Shortage

$1.25 Million in Grants Will Also Help Train Low-Income Individuals for Health Careers

December 19, 2001

In parallel efforts, the University of Rochester School of Nursing and Strong Memorial Hospital are offering assistance to low-income individuals who want health-care careers, to students and employees who want to become Registered Nurses, and to Registered Nurses pursuing graduate work or career advancement. In all, more than $1.25 million will be given to help prepare people for new jobs or better jobs, thanks to successful bids for three major grants and internal funding.

State Funds to Train the Needy

A $750,000 grant from New York State to Strong Memorial Hospital will provide funding to support individuals who qualify for the state TANF program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). The money will go to recruit, train, support, and mentor people for vacant health-care positions - a high school or GED graduate, for example, who wants to become a radiation therapy technician. The support might be money for tuition, child support, travel, uniforms, or whatever else the recipient can't afford.

"We're putting into place all the things that dissolve barriers for people trying to get into the health professions," says Gail Ingersoll, director of Clinical Nursing Research and co-director of the TANF program at Strong. "The objective really is to get people into the workforce."

Scholarships Help RN students

Strong Memorial Hospital has also established 10 scholarships of up to $8,000 to help both students and Strong employees earn degrees as Registered Nurses. The Student Assistance Program is Strong's latest effort to help alleviate the nationwide nursing shortage, a problem that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has deemed one of the biggest our health-care system faces.

Five scholarships will offer financial support to area high school students or graduates who have been accepted into a full-time associate degree program for nursing. Five other scholarships will assist University of Rochester full- or part-time employees in a nursing-practice position (LPN, technician, or secretary) who have been accepted into a full-time associate degree program for nursing. For both scholarships, part-time students who can complete the program in two years or less are also eligible. As part of the awards, recipients agree to work full-time for two years or more as an RN at Strong Memorial Hospital. In effect, that means guaranteed job placement for students.

"We're looking to help people who have an interest in nursing, but don't have the means," says Patricia Witzel, MBA, MSN, RN, senior director for nursing practice at Strong Memorial Hospital. "We're also trying to interest people who are not currently in the profession, but who are looking for a new and better career."

The scholarships will be internally funded by the hospital.

Half a Million Dollars for the School of Nursing

In addition, the University of Rochester School of Nursing has received two outside grants for training and education. A $400,000 Workforce Retraining Grant, from the New York State Department of Health, will go to developing and conducting training for nurses who have been out of the profession, or who want training in a different area (a school nurse, for example, who wants to work in a hospital). Nurses will learn new technologies and clinical practices in today's evolving health-care world. Part of that grant will also go toward scholarships for the school's graduate programs.

The second School of Nursing grant totals $97,720, from the Helene Fuld Health Trust, HSBC Bank USA. This money will support five students in the RN to BS or the RN to BS to MS programs, based on financial need, but also with the intent to encourage minority and rural students.

The University of Rochester and Strong Memorial Hospital are working with the community to find people who might benefit most from these new grants and scholarships. Action for a Better Community and Rochester Works (One Step Career Center), for example, are helping to identify good candidates, and word of the scholarships is being sent to guidance counselors.

The national nursing shortage can be cyclical, but in September, Health and Human Services Secretary Thompson said that if current trends continue, the United States will face a shortage of half a million nurses by 2020.

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