"We have no nursing shortage, just a maldistribution of nurses". WRONG! as this article proves: 18 schools of nursing closed, 40 % student enrollment drop. NO ONE WANTS TO ENTER THE NURSING PROFESSION, TOO MANY INCENTVES FOR EASIER WORK ELSEWERE. Karen
Using cash to tackle a nursing shortage
Abington Memorial Hospital offers tuition and benefits for nurses who train there and agree to stay awhile.
By Margie Fishman
INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
ABINGTON - Rebecca Phipps feels a little guilty that one of the worst nationwide nursing shortages in recent history has worked to her advantage.
But only a little.
Phipps has a full ride to Abington Memorial Hospital's Dixon School of Nursing in Willow Grove and is all but guaranteed a job upon graduation with plenty of perks, including child-care benefits, flexible scheduling, and a starting salary of about $41,000 with a sign-on bonus of at least $3,000.
"It's like winning the sweepstakes," said the 32-year-old mother of three, a waitress in Conshohocken.
As part of a $20 million campaign to recruit and retain nurses, Abington recently announced that it would pay for the education of its nursing students through scholarships and interest-free loans forgiven with a work commitment of one to two years at the hospital. The tuition-reimbursement program, which takes effect with the incoming freshman class, is one of the most aggressive among nursing schools in the Philadelphia region, according to the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council.
"What makes Abington's effort remarkable is when you look at the dollars committed locally, it seemed to be on a scale that is above and beyond what we've seen before," said John Crosbie, a spokesman for the council.
The number of nursing-school graduates in Pennsylvania has fallen 40 percent in the last five years, and at least 18 nursing-school programs in the state have closed, according to the council. Most in demand are critical-care nurses in specialized areas such as pediatric and cardiovascular intensive-care, neonatal, emergency, and surgery.
Abington, which employs nearly 1,000 staff nurses, graduated 14 nursing students this past year - the smallest class administrators can remember. In 1995, by comparison, 65 students graduated.
"We're all hurting to get nurses, and it's only predicted to get worse," said Linda Scholfield, the hospital's vice president for patient services, adding that hospital-based nursing programs
such as Abington's compete with university-affiliated programs, which are also underwriting tuition but have access to a larger pool of state funding.
"Nursing didn't get into this predicament alone, and nursing is going to need some help to get out of it," she said.
Help appears to be on the way. State Sen. Harold F. Mowery (R., Cumberland) has introduced a measure under which the state would provide scholarships and loan forgiveness to students willing to work in Pennsylvania hospitals that have nursing shortages. Similar legislation is pending in New Jersey.
Scholfield applauded the Mowery bill but said the proposed allocation - about $3,000 in scholarships for each year a student gives to a hospital - was insufficient.
Main Line Health, part of the Jefferson Health System, recently announced that current or newly hired registered nurses in key clinical areas would receive bonuses of up to $25,000 over three years. The nursing shortage has prompted Main Line's three hospitals - Lankenau, Bryn Mawr and Paoli Memorial - to occasionally close beds, divert emergency cases elsewhere, and postpone elective procedures, Main Line administrators said.
At Abington, the campaign has helped woo 48 new students to the two-year diploma program, which costs $6,000 a year and carries registered nursing certification.
The first-year students, whose ages range from 18 to older than 40, are from Bucks, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. Six are male. They will join 29 returning students. By 2004, the school hopes to enroll 60 students per class, with new weekend and evening programs.
Base admission requirements include one year of college-level course work. How much a student receives in scholarships versus loans depends on the student's grade-point average upon entering the program and the ability to maintain that GPA. Students with GPAs higher than 3.7, for example, automatically qualify for a full scholarship. Students with GPAs below 3.5 qualify for a $3,000 scholarship and a $3,000 interest-free loan each year, forgiven with a two-year work commitment.
The campaign, which also includes funding for current nursing staff to conduct research and obtain specialty certification, was financed, in part, by a $5 million donation from Erdenheim philanthropist Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr. That gift, the largest in the nursing school's history, led the hospital to rename the school after Dixon.
Margie Fishman's e-mail address is email@example.com
Wildtime, even a hospital school of nursing, in an affluent area, is having trouble staying afloat due to the working conditions of bedside nurses today. Glad to see they are also using monies for nursing research and specialty certification. That's what helps to keep nursing interest peeked and burnout at bay, along with networking. Karen
Jul 19, '01
Scholarships and loans repayment programs are good news. Bonuses and wage increases are very good news. An end to mandatory overtimes and reductions in work load would be great news.
Last edit by oramar on Jul 19, '01