Cedar Rapids Hospital partners with second nursing school to hire new graduates
UnityPoint Health-St Luke’s Hospital employees gather for an April 2020 Emergency Department tour in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)
CEDAR RAPIDS—UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital announced a partnership with Kirkwood Community College to provide financial aid to nursing students who have accepted job offers at Cedar Rapids Hospital.
This is the second partnership St. Luke’s has established with a Cedar Rapids-based nursing school as the health system creates new approaches to meeting nursing needs, underscoring the challenges facing Iowa hospitals. and the country are facing amid persistent staff shortages.
“It’s a way for us to address the nursing shortage, supporting students financially and providing them with a pathway to their long and rewarding careers in nursing,” said Carmen Kleinsmith, Senior Vice President and Nursing in Chief of St. Luke.
On Monday, Kirkwood and St. Luke officials announced the implementation of the Senior Promise program for nursing students who are expected to graduate in 2022 or 2023.
Qualified students will continue to work full-time as nurses in a unit or department that St. Luke’s has identified as the greatest staffing need. This includes critical care, adult acute care, behavioral health, inpatient rehabilitation, emergency department, and operating rooms.
Students selected for the program will receive financial support that will help cover the tuition fees for the last two semesters of their senior year. Kirkwood officials said the aid is given on a three-tiered schedule based on students’ expected family contribution, calculated from their free federal student aid application form.
Students are also entitled to an enrollment bonus, depending on the department in which they work, officials said.
Enrollment bonus and tuition support will be fully forgiven if the beneficiary completes 18 months of hospital employment as a nurse.
Kathy Dolter, Kirkwood’s dean of nursing, said the financial aid offered through the program is “a game-changing opportunity” for nursing students.
“This program allows our students to graduate with significantly less debt, and that has an incredible impact for someone just starting out in their career,” Dolter said in a statement. “Student debt is a huge hurdle for many looking to get established after graduation, and it’s important to take advantage of any chance we have to ease this huge burden.
Last week, St. Luke’s announced that it had established a Senior Promise program for Mount Mercy University nursing students graduating in 2022 and 2023. This program offers the same financial aid and bonus of signature, which will be forgiven after 18 months of employment.
Mount Mercy has also partnered with Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids to provide nursing students with hands-on work experience and financial aid. Those students accepted into the program, called the MercyReady Nursing Education Assistance Program, must agree to work at Mercy as full-time nurses for at least two years.
These new partnerships between higher education institutions and health systems highlight a new urgency in the face of the shortage of health workers, Mount Mercy University President Todd Olson told The Gazette last week. .
According to a 2020 report by Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Board of Nursing, nearly 60% of health care organizations in the state report a lack of qualified candidates for open nursing jobs. Of these, 19% reported an “extreme” shortage and about 36% noted a “great” shortage.
“It’s a particularly turbulent time,” Olson said. “What came out of that was a particular urgency around building partnerships right now.”
Kirkwood nursing students who are interested in the St. Luke’s Promise program should email [email protected]
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