Partners launch program to combat nursing shortage

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Tina Freese Decker. Courtesy Spectrum Health

BHSH System and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) have partnered to help alleviate the shortage of skilled nursing.

The two institutions on Tuesday, April 12, released details of their partnership for the BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan Nurse Scholar program. The program aims to boost the nursing pipeline by providing access to nursing education through GVSU, followed by employment through BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan.

BHSH, the new combined health system of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, is set to invest $19 million for the program framework, including startup costs, increased clinical placements and training. This includes grant dollars for all BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan Nurse Scholars.

GVSU plans to enhance its curriculum, faculty hours, technology, support services, and other resources for students and staff.

BHSH President and CEO Tina Freese Decker said this new model will meet a critical need in Grand Rapids and perhaps across the country.

“We’re excited to launch this new program to serve as a model to other institutions,” she said. “We hope it will be the first of many bold new approaches in health sciences.”

Decker credited burnout and stress from the pandemic as a primary reason for the nationwide nursing shortage and said she hopes the program will serve as an inspiration for other institutions.

Shawn Ulreich, chief nurse executive and senior vice president of clinical operations at Spectrum Health, said while developing new nurses is important, the retention of current staff also is a priority for the health system. Current efforts include “support programs, flexible work schedules and staying competitive in the market.”

The new program will create an opportunity for nearly 500 additional students to pursue a career in nursing over the next six years. GVSU will assume all costs and maintain the new permanent increase in admitted students at its Kirkhof College of Nursing.

Philomena Mantella. Courtesy 616 Media

GVSU President Philomena Mantella said the program and partnership indicate both institutions’ shared values in serving the community and working together to address needs.

“These talent gaps hold us back or put us at risk,” Mantella said. “We have many dedicated and talented students who want to pursue nursing, but we needed the creativity and support of our partners at BHSH System to make the expansion of nursing possible and affordable for more talented and diverse students. This program is a huge leap forward and a model for other high-need fields. I applaud the ingenuity and willingness of our teams to bring it to fruition.”

The program is expected to launch in January 2023, pending approvals and proper accreditation.

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