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Bower Foundation grant funds UMMC-trained nurse educators

Published on Monday, April 19, 2021

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

A $3.8 million grant from the Bower Foundation will create critically needed health care administrators and community college nursing educators by providing life-changing graduate education for 64 registered nurses through the RN-to-MSN program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The project, Building a Strong Future for Nursing in Mississippi, will also spread the School of Nursing leadership development program statewide and will provide online resources for nursing educators in the state’s community colleges.

Joining together to announce the $3.8 million Bower Foundation grant April 19 at the School of Nursing are, from left, Dr. Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; Dr. Kandy Smith, professor of nursing; Dr. Julie Sanford, School of Nursing dean; Anne Travis, Bower Foundation CEO; and Kathy Elliott, dean of health science at Hinds Community College.

“The grant investments of the Bower Foundation seek to benefit health and health care outcomes in our state,” said Anne Travis, Bower Foundation CEO. “This grant to UMMC for the benefit of community college nursing faculty and students statewide will build nurse educator and nurse manager capacity in Mississippi.”

Travis says the Building a Strong Future for Nursing in Mississippi program will have far-reaching effects.

The grant addresses the need for additional nursing educators at the state’s community colleges by providing full tuition and a stipend to registered nurses with associate degrees entering UMMC’s Master of Science in Nursing program for RNs.

This investment in nursing education will result in more nurses in the state, and, for the 64 recipients, a leap forward in their nursing careers, said Dr. Julie Sanford, dean of the School of Nursing.

“There is a dire need for nurses in Mississippi as well as nationwide,” Sanford said. “This generous grant from the Bower Foundation will provide the education that will put more nursing educators in Mississippi’s community colleges around the state. This grant will be transformational for the state and for the students in this program.”

More than 80,000 applicants were turned away from undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in 2019 due to a lack of faculty as well as insufficient classroom space, clinical sites and preceptors and budget constraints, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports.

Sanford announces the $3.8 million grant from the Bower Foundation for the Building a Strong Future for Nursing in Mississippi program.

Most nursing schools responding to an AACN survey on the subject pointed to faculty shortages as a top reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into their programs.

This comes as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 175,000 openings for RNs each year through 2029.

"Competent and well-trained nurses are critically important to the provision of health care services in our state,” Travis said. “We have talented and capable Mississippians who, with more education and training, can become nurse leaders. Building up this health care work force across our state will benefit the economy and health outcomes.”

Of the 64 scholarships awarded, 32 will be in the MSN nursing education track, and 32 will go to incoming students in the MSN nursing and health care administrator track. The scholarships will be awarded to incoming RN-to-MSN students in 2022 and 2023. Each student will also receive a stipend and funding to purchase a laptop computer meeting program specifications.

Nurses will be nominated for the scholarships by the community colleges from which they graduated. Participating community colleges are Coahoma, East Central, East Mississippi, Hinds, Holmes, Itawamba, Jones, Meridian, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Northeast Mississippi, Northwest Mississippi, Pearl River and Southwest community colleges.

Elliott discusses the opportunities the Bower Foundation grant will provide to community college faculty and graduates.

The program also will support current nurse educators at the community college level by expanding the School of Nursing’s Dean’s Emerging Academic Leaders program, or DEAL, statewide, and by providing online resources from UMMC.

“Hinds Community College’s Division of Nursing is excited about the opportunities presented by UMMC and the Bower Foundation in Building a Strong Future for Nursing in Mississippi,” said Kathy Elliott, Hinds’ dean of health science. “From providing faculty development opportunities and advanced degree options to leadership development, the benefits for faculty, programs and ultimately for students are immeasurable.”

The two-year DEAL program helps develop leadership skills among its participants through class sessions and projects. Building a Strong Future for Nursing in Mississippi will support current nursing faculty in the state by offering online resources including a preparation course for the Certified Nurse Educator exam.

Didlake tells of the impact the Building A Strong Future for Nursing in Mississippi program will make in the state.

The grant will pay for one nurse educator from each community college in Mississippi to take the exam, which is $400 for members of the National League of Nursing and $500 for nonmembers.

These features of the Bower Foundation grant will support the development of the next generation of nursing educators and nursing leaders, which will have a ripple effect on the students they teach, said Dr. Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. "In a very real way, this grant reaches every patient those future nurses will touch.”