$6.4 million grant given to help expand NAU’s nursing programs

Photo Courtesy of the NAU Review

Amid a nationwide nursing shortage, NAU was given a $6.4 million grant by the Arizona Department of Health Services. The grant will help NAU expand its nursing programs and offer over 240 full-tuition scholarships to students accepted into the programs.

Janina Johnson is the executive director of the School of Nursing, and a registered nurse. 

New scholarship opportunities, Johnson said, were created to ensure people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to become nurses. After graduation, each recipient must work as a nurse in Arizona for four years. 

“That expansion is really helping us meet the nursing shortage in Arizona,” Johnson said. “It's also helping us with our mission of expanding access to high-quality education.” 

Arizona ranks in the top five states with critical nursing shortages. The new scholarships created by the grant will encourage the students who receive them to stay in Arizona and help the state in the field of nursing.

Jason Bradley is an assistant clinical professor and program coordinator for NAU’s Yuma and Tucson nursing program locations. Bradley said, since the new nursing programs are shorter, they will help nurses join the workforce sooner.

“I would like to see students receive the scholarship who are committed to the local area,” Bradley said. 

Johnson said students who want their tuition paid for, want to participate in an accelerated program and can fulfill the commitment of working as a nurse for four years are recommended to apply.

Scholarships will be given out over the year and NAU will begin dispersing scholarships in the Summer of 2023 for their Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. 110 scholarships will be given to students in the program.

“I was ecstatic when I learned of this grant,” Bradley said. “This means many students can gain this valuable degree with little or no student debt.” 

The Compressed Bachelor of Science in Nursing (CBSN) program will receive 130 scholarships starting in the Fall of 2023.

President José Luis Cruz Rivera spoke on the grant and said NAU is committed to preparing students for the nursing workforce.

“Thanks to this state grant, NAU will significantly expand its nursing program offerings and educate more students who will positively contribute to serving Arizona’s communities and address health equity throughout our state," Cruz Rivera said in a story published by the NAU Review

The pandemic took a toll on nurses' drive, Johnson said. The field was seeing a lot of nurses burn out. In terms of university numbers, Johnson said the College of Nursing has not seen a decline in the number of students applying for nursing school. 

“What makes NAU stand out is our unique focus on rural communities,” Johnson said. “Our programs are flexible and hybrid and we have excellent National Council Licensure Examination pass rates and completion rates.”

In fall 2023, NAU is expected to expand its nursing program. Their new CBSN program is a 16-month compressed bachelor's course that will be introduced to their Flagstaff, Yuma and Tucson campuses. 

NAU’s current program, ABSN, takes a total of 12 months to complete and is designed for students who have graduated college with a degree in a field other than nursing. The new program will be open to undergraduate students. 

Once applicants are out of nursing school, NAU sees a majority of their students get jobs after college, Johnson said. During nursing school, students take over 130 hours of practicum at a place they want to work at in the future.

Job offers typically come during the time of a student's undergraduate program. After college, students can pick where they want to go to work. Most jobs are entry-level positions, with higher-level jobs requiring more experience, Johnson said.

While the next cycle of applications for nursing school does not open up for a few more months, to learn more about NAU’s nursing programs, those interested can visit the NAU School of Nursing website and reach out to advisors.

I'm a sophomore at NAU studying Journalism and English with an emphasis in creative writing. I'm also a features writer for the Lumberjack and have worked for several other papers in the past.

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