ESL Federal Credit Union has provided a $1.5 million grant for the training, education and job placement of low-income individuals in the field of nursing. The workforce development program at Rochester General Hospital will assist roughly 645 students working to become certified licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants over a three-year period.
Funds will support scholarships in nursing education and a youth apprenticeship program that exposes high school students to various careers in nursing. To ensure that program participants can complete their schooling, the grant also covers wrap-around services such as career counseling, child care and housing assistance. Emergency needs regarding unforeseen personal hardships, reliable transportation, exam fees and ancillary fees such as textbooks and laptop computers are also eligible for support, ESL says.
“Nurses are critical caregivers and healers in our community when it comes to providing quality health care,” says Faheem Masood, president and CEO of ESL Federal Credit Union. “Our goal with this funding is to not only ensure we are building this pipeline for a necessary, highly-respected, well-paying career, but to also ensure that those students in the program have the resources necessary to finish their studies and achieve their career goals.”
The program aims to fill critical nursing shortages experienced in Rochester’s health care workforce. It also hopes to reduce the backlog of nursing school applicants at local colleges.
ESL points to the latest MCC Workforce Clusters Database Wage and Gap Analysis. The report notes there are 879 open RN positions, 647 CNA jobs and 299 LPN openings in Greater Rochester. This situation has played out nationally as well. Last month, the American Nurses Association urged the Department of Health and Human Services to declare a national nurse staffing crisis and take immediate steps to develop and implement both short- and long-term solutions.
In Mississippi, for instance, there has been a decrease of 2,000 nurses since the start of the year. Texas is currently recruiting 2,500 nurses from out of state, a number that ANA expects will fall short of expected demand. A Trusted Health survey found that nurses in the 20-39 age group reported that their commitment to nursing had decreased.
Still, nursing schools continue to see an interest in the field. In 2020, 80,521 qualified applications were not accepted at schools of nursing due primarily to a shortage of clinical sites, faculty, and resource constraints, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing says. Local colleges are seeing 3.5 times the number of nursing school applicants than the number of spots they have available, ESL says.
The workforce development program at RGH could be one step toward addressing that challenge.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.