Wyoming nurses will soon be able to earn a scholarship to advance their nursing degrees through a $1 million donation provided to the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing at the University of Wyoming.
The scholarships, provided by the McMurry Foundation, which has a special interest in health services in Natrona County, will help between 50 and 75 nurses get a higher degree. Though created most for working nurses who wish to up their education a notch, the funding will also be available to people with bachelor's degrees in other fields who would also like to earn a nursing degree through the Bachelors Reach for Accelerated Nursing Degree (BRAND) program. This course of action has certain prerequisites, like anatomy and physiology classes. The 15-month program normally costs well over $20,000.
According to Dean Mary Burman of UW's nursing school, approximately 30 percent of Wyoming nurses have bachelor's degrees in nursing. Conversely, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies set a goal to increase that number nationwide to 80 percent by 2020.
"This scholarship will serve to strengthen the efforts of UW and Wyoming Medical Center through opportunity and through achievement, which will be measured by the pride these future graduates feel, and by the pride their families feel in them," said Susie McMurry, board member of the McMurry Foundation. As one of Wyoming's largest hospitals, Wyoming Medical Center had collaborated for years to improve nurse education opportunities in the state.
The donation comes on the heels of research that found better patient outcomes in proportion to the amount of education nurses have. One study showed a 10 percent increase in the number of nurses with bachelor's degrees decreased the odds of patients dying by 4 percent in all hospitals, regardless of work environments. Another study showed only 36 percent of new nurses nationwide graduate from bachelor's degree programs.
"We have a long way to go," Burman said.
And the medical field isn't waiting around.
"The complexity of care is really increasing dramatically," Burman said. She added that bachelor's degrees "top off" critical thinking, leadership and interdisciplinary team skills needed for a nurse to excel.
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