Scholarship Program Meeting Nursing Need

By Sarah Asp Olson

Yavapai College is partnering with the community to offer scholarships and a support system for student nurses.

In 2011, Paul Kirchgraber, director of development for Arizona’s Yavapai College Foundation, approached the local Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) to discuss a partnership. Their conversations revolved around this question: If a cohort of 10 nursing students and two radiologic-technology students were offered full tuition and fees, given wholehearted and personal support from academic advisers and asked to make a concerted effort to find work in the area upon graduation, would it work?

“We’re at cohort number four, and it definitely works,” Kirchgraber says.

The five-year, $380,000 JCF Healthcare Scholarship Program launched in 2012 with funding from an anonymous donor. In that time, 59 total nursing students and radiologic-technology students have accepted full scholarships to Yavapai College. To date, 100 percent of graduates have passed their licensure exams, and 90 percent of those graduates are working in Yavapai or the neighboring county.

he scholarship came at a time when the need for nurses in Arizona was on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Arizona is projected to have 28,100 fewer nurses than needed by 2025, the largest state shortfall.

Making sure there are nurses to fill those spots and encouraging the best-qualified candidates to stay in the community has been a top priority for Yavapai College and its community partners.

Keys to success

Nursing students who qualify for the need-based award must first be accepted into Yavapai’s competitive nursing program. Once they are in, all of their tuition and fees are covered for the two-year program. But the support is more than financial.

Students and their families kick off their first semester with an official reception with Yavapai officials. The JCF also makes an effort to connect with the students they support by gifting each incoming student with an engraved stethoscope or imaging marker personalized with the student’s name.

“From day one, we make them feel very special. [We] tell them what the program is all about, why they were selected for the program and that our goal is to help find employment in [their] hometown,” Kirchgraber says.

While the academic program is identical for all students, college coordinators work closely with JCF Scholarship students to monitor progress and offer support.

“There’s an awful lot of tracking of their grades done behind the scenes, working with their advisers to see if there are any issues academically or personally,” Kirchgraber says.

Donors often approach Kirchgraber with anecdotes about receiving treatment from a Yavapai College–trained nurse or technician. “There’s a sense of pride,” he says. “They are helping people get an education and [enabling them] to stay in [the area] and raise their families. I think that gives them a very good sense that they’re making an impact.”

The next five years

Given the scholarship program’s success, Kirchgraber approached the JCF eight months ago to discuss an extension.

“This is no longer a proof of concept,” Kirchgraber says. “The JCF proved if you can remove financial burden as an obstacle and give additional support, [graduates] will stay and help our community.”

With a widened support base that includes the JCF, the Yavapai College Foundation, Yavapai Regional Medical Center, the Margaret T. Morris Foundation and the Harold James Family Trust, the college will be able to continue the program an additional five years under a new name: The Community Healthcare Scholarship Program.

Sarah Asp Olson

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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