|FAMU President James H. Ammons, Ruena Norman, interim dean of the FAMU School of Nursing and FAMU nursing students are all smiles after Capital Health Plan announces its investment in FAMU's nursing program.
Capital Health Plan Investment in FAMU, FSU and TCC to alleviate capital region’s nurse shortage
– Capital Health Plan (CHP) announced it will invest over the next five years a total of $1.5 million in nursing education programs at Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College. The initiative is aimed at alleviating a growing nursing shortage in this area and throughout Florida. Demand for new nurses in Florida is expected to grow by nearly one quarter or more than 36,000 new jobs by 2014.
According to a 2007 study by the Florida Center for Nursing, 40 percent of nurses in Florida are 51 or older. Many will retire in the next 10 years, while the state’s aging population will continue to require a growing number of nurses. For years the medical community has tried to fill this gap by searching around the country and the world to recruit nurses for this area. At the same time nursing schools have had to turn away qualified applicants because of capacity limits. CHP’s investments are intended to improve that situation for both patients and area residents who want to pursue nursing.
“Capital Health Plan is proud to invest in nursing education,” said Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, CHP’s Chief Medical Officer, speaking at a news conference held on National Nurses Day. “Today’s nursing students are the professionals who’ll care for CHP members and the community for years to come.”
The grants will total $100,000 a year for five years for each school. The State of Florida might match 50 percent, potentially increasing the total investment to $2.25 million.
CHP’s investment will help reduce the shortage by making nursing education more affordable and efficient. The funding will increase the number of nurses in Florida and, more specifically, in the capital region – Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla and Jefferson counties – where CHP provides care for its members.
The money will impact each nursing program differently. At FSU, the funding will create a 12-month accelerated bachelor’s of science in nursing program for students who have a bachelor’s degree in another field and have completed prerequisite courses. The program is the first of its kind in the Big Bend area. It will commence in the fall of 2009 with an initial class of 16 students and will allow students to gain a nursing degree in half the usual time.
"Talk about a winning combination," said FSU President T.K. Wetherell. "With FSU's longstanding success in educating nurses to meet the complex and changing healthcare needs of our society and Capital Health Plan's investment in our new accelerated program, everyone's needs, including the patient's, will be met much more quickly."
At FAMU, CHP’s investment will create the Capital Health Plan/Edwin Thorpe Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will provide scholarships for undergraduate, upper-division students who are graduates of high schools in Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla and Jefferson counties. The scholarship will pay up to full tuition for recipients for a maximum of four semesters.
“The cost of college is a barrier that many of our students face,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons. “With CHP’s generous investment, we will break down that barrier for local students who are interested in nursing. We believe that these students are likely to stay and fill the need for nurses in the capital region.”
TCC President Bill Law said his college will use the funds to expand its cutting-edge technology allowing students to respond to emergencies in simulated real-time settings.
“CHP’s generous donation will help nursing students gain experience with real-life clinical situations simulated in the safety of a learning environment,” said President Law. “These simulators will enable students to repeat procedures to achieve better patient outcomes.”
Also in attendance were Lisa Plowfield, dean of the FSU College of Nursing; Ruena Norman, interim dean of the FAMU School of Nursing; and Lois Ewen, TCC dean of Health Care Professions.
Capital Health Plan, the area’s only local health plan, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and provides health care coverage for more than 113,000 people in Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla and Jefferson counties.