A new nursing scholarship by the Georgetown University Medical Center and Washington Hospital Center aims to bring on more applicants and to combat the increasing national shortage of nurses.

The two organizations announced on March 18 that they have invested $2 million to finance 80 percent tuition scholarships for 28 students. In the next few years, additional money will be invested into the accelerated second degree program since the School of Nursing and Health Studies hopes to expand the scholarship program to eventually graduate 230 new nurses, said NHS spokesperson Bill Cessato.

The creation of the scholarship stems from the country’s nursing shortage. Statistics from the Health and Resources and Service Administration show that there will be a projected shortage of 3,000 full-time registered nurses in the District of Columbia by 2010.

Although students who obtain this new scholarship will still study under the same curriculum as students in the regular nursing program, which has been in place since the early 1990s, they will complete a majority of their required clinical hours at Washington Hospital Center and will be guaranteed a job at Washington Hospital Center upon graduation.

The partners will also create an Institute for Nursing Innovation and Research, which will “conduct research on patient safety and quality, clinical practice, and translational nursing science . [and] will also develop and evaluate a nurse retention program aimed at keeping qualified nurses in the Washington area,” according to a university press release.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the department of nursing to work with Washington,” said Michael Relf, chair of the nursing department at the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

“Georgetown will provide a solid educational foundation. And the Hospital Center will offer an excellent clinical venue for training and employment. Together, we hope to diminish the impact of the shortage in our area, as well as to improve the health of our community,” Relf said.

Howard Federoff, executive vice president for health sciences at the Medical Center, said he believes this partnership will strengthen the entire nursing program.

“Our partnership creates for Georgetown one of the largest and most diverse clinical populations in the country, which benefits our medical and nursing students and allows us to more quickly translate basic science discoveries into cutting-edge patient treatments and new drug discoveries,” he said.

According to Cessato, applicants must apply to the regular accelerated “second degree” program, which offers college graduates the chance to gain a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 16 months as opposed to the standard four years. Applicants then apply separately to the scholarship program. The Washington Hospital Center will then decide which applicants receive the scholarship.

“We expect applications to the accelerated second degree program to increase significantly because of the new scholarship opportunity,” Cessato said.

After completing the program, students are required to work three years at a nursing position at Washington Hospital Center.

James Caldas, president of Washington Hospital Center, said in a press release that this will allow for prospective nurses who have experience in other fields to apply.

“This hospital-university partnership will provide a brand new avenue for recruitment of nurses who have already received academic degrees in other fields,” he said.

According to Elizabeth Wykpisz, interim chief nursing officer at Washington Hospital Center, this program will help to alleviate nursing shortages.

“We see this program as an opportunity to continue to grow our own staff as nurses retire or leave to pursue other opportunities,” she said.

Robert Rosseter, associate executive director of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said that the nursing shortage has led to several problems.

“The United States is experiencing a nursing shortage that is expected to intensify over the next 12 years. A growing shortage of registered nurses is compromising the quality of available health care and may limit access to needed services, particularly for vulnerable populations,” he said.

According to Rosseter, though, hospitals have taken a number of measures to alleviate the nursing shortage, including raising salaries, improving working conditions, and offering signing bonuses and providing tuition reimbursements to nurses.

“One of the most effective recruitment strategies involves establishing partnerships with schools of nursing to satisfy mutual needs,” he said.

While Wykpisz said she does not believe that the nursing shortage will be resolved any time soon, she said she does see the nursing shortage as a unique opportunity.

“We view the shortage as an opportunity to develop and implement innovative programs [like the accelerated second degree program] and other strategies that we can employ not only to recruit nurses to Washington, but to retain them,” she said.

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