Pictured above (left to right): Liz Novak, Stephen Perez, IBC Foundation President Lorina Marshall-Blake, Faith Atte, RWJF Future of Nursing Scholars Program Co-Director Susan B. Hassmiller, Brittany Stark, Michelle McKay
In 2014, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation became the inaugural funder of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholars program, which is dedicated to increasing the number of PhD-prepared nurses in health care. Our $600,000 investment supported IBC Foundation Nurse Scholars enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University.
The Shortage of Nurse Educators
The importance of programs like this, and of supporting nurse educators, cannot be overstated. In my recent letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, I addressed how academic institutions are losing their capacity to accept and educate the record number of undergraduate students applying to nursing programs. With a significant number of current nursing faculty nearing or at retirement age, the problem only grows more serious with time. The Future of Nursing Scholars program supports nurses pursuing high-level degrees that prepare them to become the next generation of nursing educators.
PhD-prepared nurses are the key to preparing undergraduate students for careers in health care; they are also the front line in transforming and advancing health care delivery through research. By funding eight scholars, we are ensuring that eight high-level thinkers will contribute new and exciting scientific knowledge to the field through a variety of topics. One of our scholars, Stephen Perez of the University of Pennsylvania, has focused his research on the effects of policy decisions on public health outcomes in underserved populations. Another, Faith Atte of Villanova University, is interested in studying the impact of negative stigmas on the mentally ill.
Connecting Our Future of Nursing Scholars With Our Nurse Interns
In addition to a financial scholarship, the Future of Nursing Scholars program provides the scholars with leadership development opportunities. We build on this by actively engaging our scholars with undergraduate nursing students in our Nursing Internship Program. Through mentorship and facilitation of Leadership Labs, the IBC Foundation Nurse Scholars have truly demonstrated the importance of nursing leaders in sculpting the minds of future nurses. For example, Michelle McKay of the University of Pennsylvania facilitated a Leadership Lab on the importance of education and finding passion in nursing.
When asked why she wanted to demonstrate leadership in nursing with our undergraduate nurse interns, she said, “With every life I help to save, every family member I comfort when we didn’t save a life, and every day I leave work where I did my job to the best of my ability, I am rewarded and inspired. Becoming a teacher has been especially rewarding [because] I can inspire the love of nursing in nursing students.”
I am proud of the role our partnership with the Future of Nursing Scholars program has played in developing eight new nursing educators and leaders, and helping address the shortage of PhD-prepared nurses. I am even more proud to say that our scholars, as Michelle exemplified, are sharing their passion for nursing with their younger counterparts. That combination of education, leadership, and passion will create an unstoppable force of nurses who can and will change the way health care is delivered, for the better.
In the next few months, we’ll be profiling some of IBC Foundation Nurse Scholars, so be sure to check back to learn more about some of the nurse leaders we support.