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Scholarship to assist shortage of nurses

A new scholarship for students at the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences will address the problem of nursing shortages by increasing student enrollment, a Harris College official said.

Marinda Allender, director of undergraduate programs at the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing awarded $80,000 through their New Careers in Nursing scholarship program to the Harris College to expand the number of students on the accelerated baccalaureate track.

“The point of the scholarship is to increase the number of students, and this will increase the need for faculty, and the more faculty we have, the more students we can enroll,” Allender said.

The Web site for Harris College describes the accelerated program as a 15-month program created for students who already have earned a bachelor’s degree in a field not related to nursing. Students enrolled in the program will take traditional nursing courses but must complete the department’s prerequisites before enrollment, Allender said. These students will enter the workforce earlier than students in an undergraduate programs and fill open positions, she said.

The funds awarded to Harris College will be used as scholarships for incoming students who enroll in the accelerated program in the summer of 2009, Allender said. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported in March that a contributing factor for the nurse shortage is a lack of facilities and faculties in nursing colleges, and the scholarship was created to address the nationwide nursing shortage by increasing the number of students enrolled in accelerated nursing programs, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation press release.

Vernell Dewitty, deputy director of the New Careers in Nursing program, said the funds are available for one calendar year. Harris College was one of the 160 schools that applied for the grants that funded the scholarships, Dewitty said. Only 58 schools were chosen to receive the grants, she said.

The $80,000 award will be divided into eight $10,000 scholarships for students who enroll in the accelerated nursing program, Allender said.

Joan Clark, chief nurse executive for Texas Health Resources, said many nurses will reach retirement age by 2010, increasing the demand for nurses.

“The 24-hour-a-day watcher of the patient is the nurse – that’s why so many doctors have their patients stay in a hospital so they can get that care,” Clark said. “There’s a high degree of professional responsibility in being a nurse.”

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