Feds and Friends Finance Nursing Education

August 16th, 2011

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By , BSN, RN

In the last month or so public and private agencies have released and renewed sources of funding to help stem the nursing shortage being felt nationwide. Dollars in the form of nursing grants and nursing scholarships are coming from federal and state institutions.

On July 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $71.3 million in grant money approved to expand nursing education, training and diversity. These grants are part of the Nursing Workforce Development programs that are currently appropriated for 2011 under Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act. Title VIII programs have addressed various aspects of the nursing shortage for more than 40 years.

Title VIII funds support education programs of all levels, from entry-to-practice to graduate level study. This latest round of grants will fund efforts to support more advanced nursing specialty programs, as well as efforts to educate more nurses at the baccalaureate level.

Nursing workforce development programs, reauthorized by the Affordable Care Act and administered by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration, are the primary source of federal funding for nursing education and workforce development.

“These awards reflect the critical role of nurses in our healthcare system, and our ongoing commitment to attract and retain highly-skilled nurses in the profession,” said Sebelius.

Funding Helps Faculty Shortfalls

A large portion of the grant money will be used to prepare faculty to teach the next generation of nurses. More than $23 million is designated for nurse faculty loan programs including plans for partial loan forgiveness, allowing recipients to serve as full-time faculty to pay back some of their student loans.

Efforts to support the development of more nurse faculty are critical because faculty members are already in short supply, said Darlene Curley, MS, RN, executive director of the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, which awards grants to nursing programs. “In 2010, there were at least 1,000 faculty positions vacant across the country. At the same time there were over 67,000 nursing school applicants turned away.”

Developing more nurse faculty may also include finding alternatives for the traditional teaching positions. For instance, nursing schools that are having trouble filling full-time faculty roles might consider designing hybrid jobs which allow nurses to teach some courses while continuing to practice nursing in their current positions.

New Careers In Nursing

Back in mid-July the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) announced 52 schools of nursing nationwide are receiving funding through the RWJF New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program (NCIN). NCIN was launched in 2008 to address the national nursing shortage, develop a demographically representative nursing workforce, and fuel the pipeline of nurse faculty and leaders.

“Through the NCIN program, we are challenging nursing schools across the country to expand nurse leadership and strengthen education, two clear goals of the landmark 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on The Future of Nursing,“ said Denise A. Davis, DrPH, RWJF program officer for NCIN. “By diversifying the nursing profession through these scholarships, we are also helping to create a healthcare workforce ready to meet the needs of the 21st century American patient.”

The NCIN program was created through RWJF and AACN to enable schools of nursing to expand student capacity in accelerated baccalaureate and master’s programs while building a more diverse workforce ready to serve the needs of a changing patient population. Schools receiving funding through NCIN provide scholarships directly to students from groups underrepresented in nursing or from disadvantaged backgrounds. These grants signify a program investment of more than $23 million in nursing development and scholarship.

NCIN will provide scholarships in the amount of $10,000 each to 400 students entering accelerated nursing programs during the 2011-2012 academic year. In its four years of giving the NCIN program has distributed 2,317 scholarships at 109 schools of nursing. For a complete of schools receiving the NCIN grants this year go to the AACN website.

Accelerated programs like the ones supported by NCIN provide scholars with the most efficient route to licensure as a registered nurse (RN) and create opportunities for adults who have already completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree in a field other than nursing. These intense programs prepare students to pass the licensure examination required for all RNs in as little as 12 to 18 months and enter the nursing workforce more quickly than graduates of traditional programs.

There is a lot of money available from federal, state, even local institutions to support earning every level of nursing degree. The key is finding them. Availability of the Internet makes finding money easier, but it is an effort that must be started early and returned to often. Use every synonym you can think of for "scholarships" and "grants" and "education" and "money." While it seems a majority of scholarships have application deadline dates in the spring there are others available for application year round.

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