Education grants make a difference
“For me [becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse] was a way to further my career and still be with patients.”
What’s the best way to overcome a shortage?
Grow what you need in-house, so you don’t have to outsource. That’s exactly what Oaklawn is doing.
Across the nation, communities are grappling with a shortage of psychiatric prescribers, but Oaklawn is taking a proactive approach to serve our community by helping nurses already on staff go back to school. The Oaklawn Foundation provides scholarships each year to qualified employees interested in advancing their careers by becoming degreed or certified in high-priority fields.
Betsy Brown used the program to get her Master of Science in Nursing from Indiana Wesleyan University. She graduated in June and is now a fully licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner at Oaklawn’s Goshen campus. In her new role, she can diagnose and prescribe medications.
“That just helps improve access for our patients because we always need more prescribers,” said Brown.
Ideally, a community will have one mental health practitioner for every 200 people. Locally, the statistic is more like 1 for every 500 people.
“We live in an area designated as a mental health shortage area,” said Kari Tarman, Executive Director of the Oaklawn Foundation. “Recruiting psychiatrists or any advanced nursing practitioners is challenging, so by helping employees get advanced degrees, we’re really growing our own, to help fill the gap.”
It’s a growth opportunity for nurses, too, who want to advance their careers in the specialty they know and love.
“For me it was a way to further my career and still be with patients,” said Brown who started with Oaklawn in 2014 as a tech while completing her undergraduate degree. She says she would not have been able to go back to college for her master’s without the assistance Oaklawn provided.
“I was able to do all of my clinical rotation here,” she explained. “I’ve always felt I had good support and leadership from my supervisors. I’ve had the opportunity to grow quite a bit in a pretty short amount of time.”
Jeff Richmond, a floor nurse when he applied for a scholarship, earned his master’s degree and NP license three years ago and has been working in Oaklawn’s child and adolescent program as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner ever since. He’s one of five Oaklawn NPs who have received funds for their degree from the Oaklawn Foundation, and two more nurses are currently in school on track to become NPs.
“It was extremely helpful to get financial assistance,” said Richmond, who has been in nursing with Oaklawn 10 years. “It covered the added costs like books and travel to IUPUI.”
Each year, the Foundation distributes about $30,000 in education grants, which includes funding from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. Prescribers are a priority, and the award amounts can reach up to $8,000 per year. The Foundation also funds other high-priority areas like social work, addiction treatment and bilingual providers. In return, recipients commit to working at Oaklawn for three years.
“We can’t change our shortage numbers overnight,” said Tarman. “But through support from the Foundation and continuing to support our staff to advance their degrees, we can make an impact.”