St. Luke’s announces financial aid program for nursing graduates


Grace Herring, a senior at Mount Mercy University, prepares an ECG machine Thursday, April 14, 2022, in the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Mount Mercy University senior Grace Herring reviews her duties as she completes her transfer Thursday, April 14, 2022, at St. Luke’s Hospital Emergency Room in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

Mount Mercy University senior Grace Herring (left) talks to fellow tech Kenna Stutt during a transfer Thursday, April 14, 2022, to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS—UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital has partnered with a Cedar Rapids-based nursing school to create a new program that will offer nursing students financial aid in exchange for future employment.

Cedar Rapids Hospital announced the new partnership with Mount Mercy University earlier this week as part of its efforts to fill vacancies amid the current nursing shortage, which has affected healthcare organizations. health in Iowa and across the country.

The Senior Promise program was developed in response to students’ need for financial stability early in their careers, said Carmen Kleinsmith, UnityPoint Health-St. Senior Vice President and Luke’s Head Nursing Officer.

“If there are opportunities to pay off some of their loans as soon as possible, that creates a lot of relief on their part,” Kleinsmith said. “We want to meet them where they are, so we’re looking at ways to create opportunities for them to feel like they can get that financial stability, flexibility, and ideally work and grow their careers.

“I hope they feel like they have a home (at St. Luke’s) for a while and feel supported as they start their careers.”

The Senior Promise program is available to Mount Mercy nursing students graduating in 2022 or 2023. Once selected, students will receive financial support that will cover their remaining tuition and the cost of other fees, such than the books, for their last two semesters.

Additionally, students will receive an enrollment bonus once they start working in inpatient nursing units or floating pools that St. Luke’s officials have identified as the areas with the greatest need for staff. These units include intensive care, adult acute care, behavioral health, inpatient rehabilitation, emergency department, and operating rooms.

The financial aid and enrollment bonus will be waived if the student works at least 18 months as a registered nurse within the hospital.

So far, 15 senior nursing students have applied or expressed interest in the program, all of whom will graduate in May, August or December this year, Mount Mercy officials said.

That includes Grace Herring, a 21-year-old from Palo, who will be graduating in May.

Watching nurses burn out throughout the pandemic has been disheartening for students like Herring, who said she even questioned her career choice on some days.

“But having that encouragement from St. Luke’s, and them saying, ‘you’re going to be taken care of and you’re going to be successful’ means a lot,” she said.

“You know, when things get better in a few years, it’s going to be really good. We are well placed. »

Plus, the program’s financial aid is “a huge relief,” said Rebecca Francois, another senior nursing student accepted into the program.

“Having that financial security, even though student loans are still much higher, helps,” said Francois, 22, of Rosemount, Minn. huge relief. »

Herring and Francois currently work part-time at St. Luke’s, respectively in the emergency department and the medical-surgical units.

The couple had previously taken offers for full-time nursing positions in the emergency department after graduation and were grandfathered into the program after it was announced, they said.

The partnership with St. Luke’s builds on an existing relationship between the two institutions, said Todd Olson, president of Mount Mercy University. Several nursing students complete their clinical training at Cedar Rapids Hospital each year, and many accept jobs after graduation.

The need for a pipeline of potential employees isn’t new, but partnerships like the one recently formed with St. Luke’s have new urgency in the post-pandemic reality in Iowa, Olson said. More and more higher education institutions, both in Iowa and across the country, are seeing a desire from employers to build closer relationships to help them with their recruitment and retention efforts.

“It’s a particularly turbulent time,” he said. “What came out of that was a particular urgency around building partnerships right now.”

This is the second partnership with a Cedar Rapids-based employer announced for Mount Mercy’s nursing program this year.

Mount Mercy last month announced a similar partnership with Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, called the MercyReady Nursing Education Assistance Program. Nursing students accepted into the program receive financial aid and part-time hospital jobs, and in exchange, these students agree to work at Mercy Medical as full-time nurses for at least two years.

A 2020 labor demand survey by Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Board of Nursing found that nearly 60% of health care facilities in the state are experiencing a shortage of qualified applicants for jobs. open nurses. Of these, about 19% reported an “extreme” shortage and about 36% reported a “great” shortage.

The majority of Mount Mercy graduates stay to work in the Corridor, according to Olson, but Mount Mercy officials hope such programs will increase that total, he said.

“We believe this will have a significant impact,” Olson said. “It’s still early in the process, so we don’t know exactly, but we’re very optimistic.”

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Mount Mercy University senior Grace Herring wears a stethoscope necklace with her name on it, a gift she received for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, April 14, 2022, at the emergency room of St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)

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