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Wed, Aug. 21

Scholarships aid in easing area’s nursing shortage

Mary Dennis wheels patient Mel Rouse to his room at the Prescott Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Prescott.  Dennis received the Community Healthcare Scholarship in 2012 and has remained in the area working in the healthcare industry.
Photo by Les Stukenberg.

Mary Dennis wheels patient Mel Rouse to his room at the Prescott Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Prescott. Dennis received the Community Healthcare Scholarship in 2012 and has remained in the area working in the healthcare industry.

Many of the Quad-City area’s nurses have received their training courtesy of a five-year, $380,000 scholarship program created by the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF).

Established in 2012, the JCF Healthcare Scholarship Program provide students in need of financial support the opportunity to attend Yavapai College’s competitive nursing program.

This idea stemmed from one anonymous JCF donor’s passionate interests in education and medicine.

“We came up with a concept that we would have full-tuition and fee scholarships for 10 nurses and two radiology technology students,” said Dr. David Hess, JCF president. “And we would fund four entering classes of 12 students each, because those courses take two years.”

Now in its next-to-last year, the five-year scholarship fund has provided 59 nursing and radiologic technology students with scholarships (currently valued at $5,655).

So far, only three of those 59 have fallen out of the program, according to Yavapai College representatives. Of those JCF scholars who have completed the two-year nursing program, 100 percent have successfully completed their state licensing exams to become registered nurses.

“The only thing we ask in return from these students is to give it their best effort to stay in our community once they receive their training,” Hess said.

This is in relation to a legitimate concern over the current and future supply of RNs in the state.

Arizona faces the greatest projected shortfall in the number of RNs by 2025 out of all 50 states (with 28,100 fewer RNs than needed), followed by Colorado and North Carolina (each with 12,900 fewer RNs than needed), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

However, the country as a whole is expected to reach a surplus of RNs by that year. Where the concern lies, Hess said, is where the most qualified professionals will be drawn to.

“Finding healthcare professionals is hard enough and it’s doubly hard in a rural area because they make more in Phoenix and Tucson,” he said.

Though the scholarship’s condition of staying in the area wasn’t contractual, the ‘moral commitment’ — as Hess likes to call it— has proven effective.

So far, 90 percent of graduating JCF healthcare scholars have already found healthcare employment in Yavapai or Coconino County.

One such recipient of the scholarship who found a job within three days of graduating from YC is Mary Dennis.

She was in the very first class of JCF-supported nursing graduates and has worked at Prescott Nursing & Rehab since August, 2014.

At 54, Dennis decided to pursue a second career after raising seven children, two are still at home.

“The scholarship affected that by allowing much more flexibility and not having to work full-time while trying to do nursing school,” Dennis said. “I still could be attentive to my family and have the energy to do that.”

Heather Hudson, an administrator at Prescott Nursing & Rehab, said the medical facility relies heavily on Yavapai College producing qualified medical professionals to fill their employment needs.

“I would say about 90 percent of our nursing staff come from Yavapai College,” said Hudson, an RN who also graduated from the college.

Out of the facility’s 100 employees, about 40 are registered nurses, Hudson said.

Considering the scholarship’s success so far, Hess said JCF has already teamed up with several partners to continue the scholarship program for another five years with an additional $350,000.

Those partners are Yavapai College Foundation, Yavapai Regional Medical Center, the Margaret T. Morris Foundation and the Harold James Family Trust.

Now that the financial burden of the scholarship fund is shared among several organization, the name has been changed to the Community Healthcare Scholarship Program.

The first 10 recipients of this renewed scholarship will begin their studies this coming August. The scholarship will provide 40 more students the opportunity to become a registered nurse through Yavapai College at no financial cost to them.

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