Sept. 21, 2007 — The numbers are daunting. By 2015, the United States will need more than 1.2 million new and replacement nurses to keep up with growing health care demands, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And yet the number of young registered nurses graduating from nursing programs is decreasing.
To help address the nursing shortage in the Charlottesville area, the University of Virginia Health System is awarding $3,000 scholarships to 16 employees. Seven of the employees are already nurses who will pursue more advanced degrees, and the remaining employees are becoming RNs.
The scholarships are a result of joint task force recommendations between the Health System's Professional Nursing Staff Organization and Human Resources department.
"The focus was on retaining and recruiting nurses," said Tricia Van Hook of Health System Human Resources. "This program helps us retain existing nurses by supporting their career advancement and adds to the supply of nurses by assisting employees in their effort to become nurses."
To apply, employees had to submit an application form, resume, letter of acceptance from an accredited nursing degree program, essay and transcripts from high school or college. They must commit to a year of employment with U.Va. after completing school and can use the scholarship for tuition, fees and books.
"Most of the candidates reflected that a major goal since childhood was to become a nurse," said Teresa Willis, co-chair of the PNSO/Human Resources task force who was also part of the section committee that reviewed the applications. "They appreciated the opportunity to work toward that goal."
Joel Anderson, a student in the U.Va. School of Nursing's Clinical Nurse Leader program, originally intended to become a doctor. But his volunteer experience in U.Va.'s emergency room changed that.
"I found that my idea of what a doctor was, was actually the nurse's role in the hospital," Anderson said. "So I was able to draw from that experience and realize that nursing was a better fit for me than being a doctor."
Anderson, who now works as a patient care technician at U.Va.'s emergency room, had already been taking advantage of a School of Nursing scholarship and U.Va.'s tuition waiver program to help him pay his $6,000-per-semester tuition. But Anderson said the additional $3,000 will also help him with books and tuition until he graduates next year with a Master's of Science in Nursing.
"It really helps a lot with the books," he said. "They can cost anywhere from $300 to $400 a semester, so it can add up."