Published in Health Care
Grand Valley State University’s DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health. Grand Valley State University’s DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health. COURTESY PHOTO

BHSH System, GVSU launch $19M scholarship program to combat nursing shortage

BY Tuesday, April 12, 2022 01:04pm

GRAND RAPIDS — BHSH System will put $19 million toward increasing the talent pipeline for nurses who earn their degree at Grand Valley State University, officials announced today.

Under the BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan Nurse Scholar program, the Grand Rapids health system  seeks to support up to 500 additional students over six years at the GVSU Kirkhof College of Nursing.

GVSU will use the funding from BHSH to support student financial aid, clinical placements, enhanced curriculum, technology and equipment, and student support services.

BHSH and GVSU partnered on the program as Michigan and the nation face a nursing shortage that has worsened in the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t have enough nurses to care for the people in our state and that shortage has been exacerbated by the burnout and stress caused by the pandemic,” said Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO of BHSH System, the temporary name for the statewide health system created through the February merger between Spectrum Health and Southfield-based Beaumont Health.

“This reality requires us to think differently and boldly. We must challenge the status quo,” Freese Decker said. “This partnership is a fantastic example of challenging the status quo and taking a bold step forward to meeting a critical need in our communities, in our state, and potentially a model that can be replicated across the rest of the country by others.”

Freese Decker cited data indicating that Michigan may face a shortage of up to 30,000 nurses by 2030. Among nursing students who graduate from GVSU with a degree in a health profession, more than 90 percent stay in Michigan.

The BHSH funding enables GVSU to scale up the Kirkhof College amid the nursing shortage and a tight talent market that’s affecting many industries, GVSU President Philomena Mantella said this morning in a media briefing.

“This moment is a moment of urgency in nursing and many other fields. And this moment requires us to think differently, to think about new ways in which each of us lean into the current moment and be sure that we are fulfilling our mission,” Mantella said. “It is the kind of thing that we’re going to need to be doing if we’re going to address the talent gaps urgently today, whether it’s in nursing or tech or artificial intelligence, whatever the areas are.”

The program represents a significant increase in the GVSU Kirkhof College of Nursing’s capacity. The college presently admits 160 students annually in its traditional nursing program, plus 72 a year in an accelerated program for students earning a second degree.

Through the scholarship program that begins in January 2023, the Kirkhof College of Nursing will admit up to another 104 nursing students annually, according to acting College of Nursing Dean Lola Coke. The scholarship will offset a good part of the $15,000 annual cost of tuition for nursing students in their junior and senior years, Coke said.

About half of the $19 million will go to direct student aid with a work commitment of one year per $10,000 scholarship. The rest will go to faculty costs, infrastructure and other student support.

Students who receive a $10,000 grant each year in their junior and senior years at the Kirkhof College are expected to go to work at BHSH after graduating, although details of the requirement are pending, said BHSH Chief Nurse Executive Shawn Ulreich.

If a student decides Spectrum Health isn’t the right fit for them and they go to work elsewhere, the grant would turn into a zero-interest loan.

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