USF awarded $100,000 for RWJF New Careers in Nursing Program

– Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholarships to Increase Enrollment –

VA Nursing Academy participants Marian Hardwick, left, and Carey Ledee were two of eight students in the College of Nursing’s Accelerated Second Degree Program awarded RWJF scholarships this fall. Hardwick has a bachelor’s degree in health education and Ledee in biology.

The University of South Florida (USF) College of Nursing is among the first institutions in the nation to receive funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) through the RWJF New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program. Grants provided through this competitive program will be used for scholarships to increase the number of students enrolled in USF College of Nursing’s accelerated baccalaureate nursing program.

This groundbreaking national initiative, launched by RWJF and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), aims to help alleviate the nation’s nursing shortage by dramatically expanding the pipeline of students in accelerated nursing programs. The USF College of Nursing was awarded $100,000 to provide 10 student scholarships for 2008/2009.

Scholarship applications were distributed to the incoming class of Accelerated Second Degree students from the VA Nursing Academy (VANA) cohort, and 8 eligible students were awarded the scholarships on Sept. 22. The VA Nursing Academy is a collaboration between The Department of Veterans Affairs and the USF College of Nursing aimed at boosting care for veterans and job opportunities for nurses.

Students were thrilled to have this wonderful opportunity. One student commented, “This is unbelievable – now I can focus on my courses without worrying about the bills so much!” Another said, “You can’t imagine how much this is going to help me because now I can drop back my hours at work!”

Through the RWJF New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program, scholarships in the amount of $10,000 each will be distributed to entry-level nursing students in accelerated programs during the 2008-2009 academic year. Award preference is given to students from groups underrepresented in nursing or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Grant funding also will be used by the school of nursing to help leverage new faculty resources and provide mentoring and leadership development resources to ensure successful program completion by scholarship recipients.

“This program aims to safeguard the health of the nation by helping to ease the nurse and nurse faculty shortage,” said RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A. “This new initiative also will advance our strategic goal of promoting leadership in the health professions.”

The RWJF New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program supports accelerated programs, which offer the most efficient route to licensure as a registered nurse for adults who have already completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree in a discipline other than nursing.
Although enrollment in these programs has steadily increased over the past few years, many potential students are unable to enroll since already having a college degree disqualifies them for receiving most federal financial aid programs for entry-level students. The New Careers in Nursing scholarships address this problem, and will also address the overall nursing shortage, by enabling hundreds of students to launch their nursing careers through accelerated education.

“Students admitted to USF under the VA program will do their clinical work at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa and, ideally, will end up working there,” said Dr. Cass Cahill, an Assistant Professor at USF and Director of the new VA Nursing Academy.

USF was competitively selected as one of seven nursing schools across the nation this year to join the VA Nursing Academy. The VA awarded $3.5-million grant to the university to establish the VA Nursing Academy at USF. The money will pay for five faculty positions for four years and is part of a five-year, $40-million effort by the VA to team up with universities near their medical centers.

“The VA Nursing Academy expands our teaching faculty, improves recruitment and retention, and creates new educational and research opportunities,” U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake said in a statement.

By bringing more nurses into the profession at the baccalaureate and master’s degree levels, the new scholarship program also helps to address the nation’s nurse faculty shortage. Data from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration show that nurses entering the profession at the baccalaureate level are four times more likely than other nurses to pursue a graduate degree in nursing, which is the required credential to teach.

Additionally, the program targets the need to recruit students from groups underrepresented in nursing or disadvantaged backgrounds. According to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice, diversifying the nursing profession is essential to meeting the health care needs of the nation and reducing health disparities that exist among many underserved populations.

Two scholarships are being held in reserve at the USF College of Nursing until the next class of VANA students are admitted, which is expected to be in April 2008. Only students who are admitted to the College of Nursing in the accelerated second degree program are eligible.

AACN serves as the National Program Office for this RWJF initiative and oversees the grant application submission and review processes. For more information about this program, visit

– Story by Ashlea Hudak, USF College of Nursing Communications
– Photo by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications