Having seen the latest statistics that show increased safety for patients at facilities staffed by a high degree of well-trained nurses, the Lakeland Health Board of Directors did not hesitate this month to establish a new five-year scholarship program on behalf of their nursing staff. The new program will award up to 50 nurses each year with a $7,500 scholarship to cover the cost of tuition over a two-year period as they pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, or a BSN. That's an investment by the board of more than $1.8-million dollars.
Eileen Willets, RN, PhD, is Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Executive at Lakeland. She says that studies by the Institute of Medicine have shown that health systems who employ a higher percentage of BSN-prepared nurses offer not only increased safety for patients, but also fewer hospital acquired conditions, and enhanced job satisfaction rates. She tells us, "Lakeland is committed to having 80-percent of our nurses BSN-prepared by 2020 and this investment is an important step in meeting this goal."
The program will begin by offering 15 nurses the opportunity to join an on-line degree completion cohort at Andrews University in 2017. Other programs which are accredited and qualify for a full-tuition scholarship include Ohio University and American Sentinel University. If a nurse chooses another university option, he or she will still be eligible for the $7,500 scholarship to offset the overall cost of tuition. Nurses who are currently enrolled in a BSN program will also be eligible.
Beginning next year, nurses employed at Lakeland Health will have five years after they are hired to become BSN-prepared. Once nurses have completed their degree they will become eligible to earn higher wages than those without the credential.