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$3.8M grant aims to fill nurse educator gap in Mississippi

JACKSON (AP) — Sixty-four registered nurses in Mississippi will be eligible for graduate-level education through a $3.8 million grant from the Bower Foundation to the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The four-year grant aims to boost the number of nurse educators in Mississippi through a program called Building a Strong Future for Nursing in Mississippi. The grant covers full tuition and a stipend to registered nurses with associate degrees who will enter the medical school’s master of science in nursing program through a virtual platform.

The 64 scholarships will be split among two master’s degree programs. Half will go to people in the nursing education track, and the other 32 to incoming students on the nursing and health care administrator path, officials said at a news conference Monday.

“This grant to UMMC for the benefit of community college nursing faculty and students statewide will build nurse educator and nurse manager capacity in Mississippi,” said Anne Travis, the Bower Foundation’s chief executive officer.

Like the rest of the nation, Mississippi is in dire need of nurse educators and health care administrators. In 2019, 80,000 prospective nursing students were turned down, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. That’s because there weren’t enough nurse educators and the number of clinical sites and classrooms had dwindled.

Dr. Julie Sanford, dean of the School of Nursing, said the pandemic exacerbated those trends as many nurse educators left to take high-paying clinical jobs, many leaving Mississippi.

“This will prepare people throughout the state,” Sanford said, noting that many of the community colleges they’ve partnered with are in rural locations. “It’s a win-win.”

The grant also will help current nurse educators at community colleges by expanding the School of Nursing’s Dean’s Emerging Academic Leaders program throughout Mississippi and by giving them online resources from the medical school.