Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation awards NSU $1.8M to address regional nursing shortage

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The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation announced a $1.8 million grant to assist Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing in filling critical roles in northwest and central Louisiana’s healthcare workforce. The announcement was made with NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones and Michael Tipton, president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, center, with Dr. Joel Hicks, dean of the College of Nusing, and representatives from partners that include Christus Bossier Emergency Hospital, Christus Coushatta Health Care Center, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, Christus Highland Medical Center, Christus St. Frances Cabrini, RoyOMartin, Rapides Regional Medical Center, Willis-Knighton Health System and the NSU Foundation.

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University is expanding two programs that will make it easier for paramedics, military medics and people with undergraduate science degrees to transition into high-paying nursing jobs. The program, which will help fill critical roles in northwest and Central Louisiana’s rapidly shrinking healthcare workforce, is funded in part by a $1.8 million grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.

NSU hosted a program Sept. 14 to announce the grant and thank the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, as well as participating partners. NSU faculty and administrators, area legislators and representatives from the University of Louisiana System and the Board of Regents were on hand for the announcement.

The grant will be matched with $1.2 million in private support from several partners, as well as $2 million from NSU. Partners include Christus Bossier Emergency Hospital, Christus Coushatta Health Care Center, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, Christus Highland Medical Center, Christus St. Frances Cabrini, RoyOMartin, Rapides Regional Medical Center, Willis-Knighton Health System and the NSU Foundation.  The partners are not only providing financial resources, but also space in their facilities for use as clinical sites.

As many as 30 percent of Louisiana’s nurses are projected to leave the profession over the next 10 years due to retirements, burnout, and other reasons. Fewer nurses means that those still working are stretched thin — which can affect the quality of healthcare patients receive.

To get ahead of the curve, NSU is partnering with nearly a dozen other healthcare organizations in the region to add 300 nurses to the workforce in the next four years, and more than 1,000 nurses by 2032.

This initiative will add more nursing faculty to two existing NSU programs, which will now be able to accommodate more students over expanded hours like nights and weekend.

  • The first program will allow nationally registered paramedics and military medics to complete an Associate of Science in Nursing degree program in as few as three semesters by applying already completed coursework to the degree requirements.
  • The second is for people who already have a Bachelor of Science degree and allows them to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in only four semesters.

“All three of these groups — paramedics, military medics, and Bachelor of Science degree holders — bring prior knowledge and critical thinking skills that enable them to provide skilled care at an accelerated rate. Because many of them are already working to support themselves and their families, we needed to offer more times for them to be able to enroll. This grant will also help us offer more financial support to students,” said Dr. Joel Hicks, dean of NSU’s College of Nursing and School of Allied Health.

“A program like this allows NSU to, say, tap into a teaching clinical space provided by one hospital for a class taught by a qualified working nurse whose day job is at another hospital, which is something that didn’t happen before. The university has brought industry ‘competitors’ to the table to make a collective impact on this statewide problem,” said Michael Tipton, president of the Blue Cross Foundation.

“NSU takes great responsibility in being a resource for the communities in the region we serve,” said NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones.  “This grant from the Blue Cross Foundation further enables us to improve healthcare in rural or underserved communities. As the demand for healthcare professionals is expected to rise, we are working to provide pathways for individuals to acquire the credentials they need to make an impact in their communities.”

Information on Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing can be found at https://nursing.nsula.edu/nursing-programs/.   Information on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation can be found at www.BCBSLAFoundation.org.