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Scholarship Puts Nursing Students on Fast Track

October 22, 2009– Jeff Sano (NHS’09) was an IT analyst for Ford who dreamed of leaving the cubicle life behind to become an emergency room nurse.

Peace Corps volunteer Michelle Joffe (NHS’09) lived in a Ugandan HIV/AIDS orphanage, developing programs and providing hospice care. But she believed nursing skills would have allowed her to help even more.

Today, Sano and Joffe, both in their late 20s, are on their way to realizing their ambitions as Georgetown Scholars at Washington Hospital Center – a new scholarship program designed for aspiring nurses from other fields.

The multimillion partnership between the School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS) and Washington Hospital Center offers 80 percent tuition scholarships to students who make a three-year employment commitment to the hospital upon graduation.

Scholars enroll in Georgetown’s accelerated “second-degree” program, which allows college graduates who have a bachelor’s degree or higher in another field to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 16 months. They also may apply to pursue a master’s in nursing while working at the hospital.

“We provide clinical instruction and space for students, while Georgetown offers a rigorous academic environment,” says Elizabeth Wykpisz, Washington Hospital Center’s senior vice president and chief nursing officer. “The end result is highly qualified nurses who come in having already worked in a real-world clinical setting.”

The inaugural cohort of 20 scholars, including Sano and Joffe, will join Wasshington Hospital Center as salaried employees after graduating this December. All told, the partnership aims to turn out more than 200 new nurses in the coming decade.

Filling a Void

The Georgetown Scholars program helps address the national nursing shortage. A recent study published in Health Affairs projected a shortfall of 260,000 registered nurses by 2025.

The scholarship program serves as a pipeline for nurse leaders – baccalaureate-trained nurses who can assume case-manager and supervisory roles, as well as nurses with advanced practice degrees who can serve as nurse practitioners and educators.

“We educate morally reflective nurse leaders who extend their evidence-based skill set to the front lines of health care,” says Sharon Radzyminski, NHS nursing department chair.

Life Experience Wanted

Employers prize second-degree students like Sano and Joffe for the perspectives and skills they bring from other experiences, Wykpisz says.

Sano, for example, has become known among his peers for his ability to talk to patients – a skill he has honed through years of helping injured skiers.

“Because I’ve been doing ski patrol since I was 16, I’ve had lots of practice working with people who need medical attention,” says Sano. “I’ve learned how to be soothing and to tell them exactly what I’m doing as I’m doing it.”

For Joffe, who has a master’s in public health, the parallel between Peace Corps work and nursing is the “offering of hope, kindness and compassion.” During her clinical rotations this has taken many forms – from helping a patient who hadn’t been out of bed in seven days walk down the hall to sitting with a terminal cancer patient who simply wanted to talk.

“I love the richness and maturity they bring,” says Wykpisz. “They come to this knowing they want to choose nursing, and they’re highly motivated.”

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