Hospitals pledge $2.6 million for nurse scholarships, employment

Tom Hutton, CU-Colorado Springs, (719) 262-3439

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. Faced with a state and nationwide shortage of nurses, two Colorado Springs hospitals announced today (Friday, July 26) plans to create nursing scholarship and guaranteed employment programs worth more than $2.6 million at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Chief executive officers for Colorado Springs-based Penrose-St. Francis Health Services and city-owned Memorial Hospital announced at a 10 a.m. press conference on the university campus their intent to create new scholarships and employment programs designed to ease the local nursing shortage.

“CU-Colorado Springs is a student-centered and community-focused university,” Chancellor Pam Shockley said. “But I believe this level of cooperation and support is unprecedented as the university and the city’s two largest hospitals, Memorial and Penrose-St. Francis, work together to solve a growing community and state problem. We look forward to meeting the community’s needs for nursing professionals.”

The scholarships and employment program will be made during the next ten years beginning next fall and continuing through 2012. Each organization has agreed to provide approximately 384 scholarships, 768 in total. Each package is worth an estimated $1.3 million. The donations will be to the University of Colorado Foundation which will direct their use to the Colorado Springs campus.

Requirements for the scholarships are under development.

Beginning this fall and continuing next fall, the university’s Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences will expand admissions as a result of the donations announced Friday.

“This represents an investment in the continuation of quality healthcare in our community. Because our nurses are the key to quality delivery of healthcare, this investment in nursing will insure that that quality delivery continues.” Rick O’Connell, president and chief executive officer, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, said.

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“We are thrilled to participate in the formation of this scholarship fund that will proactively address the growing need for nurses. We are confident this new fund will help Colorado Springs attract more nurses and retain them in our community,” said Michael Schrader, executive director of Memorial Hospital.

Carole Schoffstall, dean, Beth-El College of Nursing, said the supply of nurses has not kept pace with demand. More than 1,000 nurses are needed in communities along the Front Range and the gap is expected to widen by 2020 as more nurses retire and the state’s population increases. In Colorado, the average age of nurses is 47 years; thousands will retire in the next decade.

By 2020, the projected national nursing deficit is expected to reach 450,000 positions.

“We must work diligently to ensure that the standard of health care in our city is maintained,” Schoffstall said. “Properly educated nurses are vital to our nation’s health care system.”

CU-Colorado Springs, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in northeast Colorado Springs, is the fastest growing university in Colorado and one of the fastest growing universities in the nation. The university offers 25 bachelor’s degrees, 17 master’s and two doctoral degrees. The campus enrolls about 7,000 students annually.

CU-Colorado Springs is the designated growth campus for the four-campus University of Colorado System and consists of the colleges of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, Nursing, Education and the Graduate School of Public Affairs.