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LSUHSC awarded grant to address nursing shortage

New Orleans, LA LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Nursing has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to provide scholarships to individuals under-represented in nursing or from disadvantaged backgrounds in an accelerated nursing degree program. The funding will support ten scholarships in LSUHSC's Career Alternative RN Education, or CARE, Program, expanding enrollment and the number of fully qualified nurses prepared to practice.

LSUHSC Nursing's CARE Program, established in 2004, offers an accelerated, rigorous and focused curriculum to prepare graduates to earn a BSN degree and complete the RN licensure examination in less than a two-year frame of study. It was designed for those who already have a degree in another discipline but would like to change careers to become a nurse.

"The CARE faculty of the LSUHSC School of Nursing envision the RWJF New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program as a means of reducing the financial stress on CARE students," notes Stephanie Pierce, RN, MN, Acting Department Chair of LSUHSC Nursing's CARE Program. "Exit interviews reveal the primary reason for withdrawing from our CARE Program is financial."

The RWJF New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program supports accelerated programs, which offer the most efficient route to licensure as a registered nurse for adults who have already completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree in a discipline other than nursing. Although enrollment in these programs has steadily increased over the past few years, many potential students are unable to enroll since already having a college degree disqualifies them for receiving most federal financial aid programs for entry-level students. The New Careers in Nursing scholarships address this problem, and will also address the overall nursing shortage, by enabling hundreds of students to launch their nursing careers through accelerated education.

LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans' CARE Program graduated its first class in May 2006, with 100% of the class obtaining RN licensure despite the challenges students and faculty faced after Hurricane Katrina. Since its inception, LSUHSC's CARE Program has graduated a total of 75 students, with an additional 31 on track to graduate in May 2009. The average score on the RN licensing exam of LSUHSC CARE students has equaled or exceeded 90%. Eighty-one students are presently enrolled in LSUHSC's CARE Program.

"For a variety of reasons, including student maturity, local health care partners clamor for LSUHSC School of Nursing CARE graduates," says Pierce. "Since the program's inception, 100% of our CARE students have had job offers prior to graduation."

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), by the year 2020, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projects that more than one million new Registered Nurses (RNs) will be needed in the U.S. health care system to meet the demand for nursing care. HRSA projects that nursing schools must increase the number of graduates by 90 percent in order to adequately address the nursing shortage. With preliminary data showing a 7.4 percent increase in graduations from baccalaureate nursing programs this year, schools are falling far short of meeting this target.

The nursing shortage is acute in the metropolitan New Orleans area and is the limiting factor in the number of hospital beds that can be opened. According to Louisiana Health Works, the Occupation Forecasting Report and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the latest estimated RN shortage for Louisiana is 4,000+.

"This program aims to safeguard the health of the nation by helping to ease the nurse and nurse faculty shortage," said RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. "This new initiative also will advance our strategic goal of promoting leadership in the health professions."


Contact: Leslie Capo
Louisiana State University Health Science Center

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