Union Health donates $1M to boost Ivy Tech nursing program in Terre Haute | Local News - freetxp

Union Health donates $1M to boost Ivy Tech nursing program in Terre Haute | Local News

The first event held in Union Hospital since February of 2020 was a big one — Union Health Foundation on Tuesday announced it will be giving $1 million to Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute, the largest gift in campus history, to expand its School of Nursing enrollment capacity.

Currently, 576 Ivy Tech graduates are employed by Union Health, 19% of the hospital’s total staff. There remains, however, a significant gap in skilled workers and workforce needs both locally and statewide.

“Our mission is to improve health and wellness in the Wabash Valley,” said Foundation Executive Director Joel Harbaugh. “We cannot do it without healthcare providers. We are in a crisis right now. It behooves us to support nurse education and healthcare worker education. And this is the first step. We will continue to focus on creating opportunities to support students who wish to pursue a career in healthcare.”

Harbaugh added, “This is the first gift of this kind. We envision that this will increase student success; it will increase capacity. Educational capacity is a real problem. This will assist Ivy Tech in increasing educational capacity and produce more nurses. We’re very excited and we’ll continue to encourage nursing students through scholarships.”

“This gift helps us to expand our nursing program and healthcare profession programs, to truly meet the needs of the community,” said Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann. “Even prior to COVID, with the Baby Boomers retiring, there was a real crisis coming. Ivy Tech has stepped forward to increase our capacity for nursing, and this gift will allow the Terre Haute campus to make good on that promise of increasing the pipeline of qualified nurses and other healthcare professions and ensuring that we are doing our part in this region .”

Faith Petrowski, a registered nurse at Union Hospital celebrating her first month on the job on Tuesday after graduating in December, was introduced during the event as an example of the quality of nurses that Ivy Tech has been producing.

Petrowski said that the COVID-19 pandemic “honestly motivated me more to get in the program as fast as I could, because we really had such a demand, we had so many people who were needing our help and so many unknowns at the time. So it really encouraged me to get out in the field as soon as I could and Ivy Tech really helped me.”

Her experience at the hospital has “fantastic,” she said. “The staff in my department have been really great at showing me the ropes. They’re really good at introducing me to a bunch of different cases and different patients to help me broaden my scope or practice. I’ve only been in there for a couple of weeks now, but I already feel so much more confident in my practices.”

Petrowski is working in the action-packed emergency room. “I’ve seen things as simple as a cough or nausea and vomiting to someone getting attacked by a dog and needing rabies treatment or someone getting attacked with sharp weapons,” she said. “Already, I’ve seen a lot of that. Cardiac arrests — you name it, I’ve seen it all and I can’t wait to see more. It’s great for me to get the exposure to all of these things because I want to be able to help anybody who walks through that door.”

In addition to the usual attrition through retirements, the pandemic has caused further resignations caused by excessive stress and burnout among healthcare professionals.

“This pressure has really — the burden on them on the floors has really flown under the radar,” Harbaugh said. “What they’ve seen, particularly, in the ICU, working extra hours is unfortunate in many ways.”

As difficult as finding nurses has been, locating nursing instructors can be just as much of a challenge, Ellspermann said. “The good news is, nursing is such a respected profession — we have more students every year wanting to become nurses than there are seats available in those programs,” she noted. “On the faculty side, we’re going to do a statewide marketing program hoping to attract some of our retired nurses. We think they would make tremendous faculty for us.”

She added, “Hiring additional faculty is not a cheap proposition,” and that Union Health’s gift will help underwrite that, as well as equipment and wraparound support and tutoring for students.

Each year, Ivy Tech Terre Haute accepts around 180 total students into the School of Nursing. The support from Union Health will help Ivy Tech’s School of Nursing add faculty and increase the annual enrollment by at least 20 students, bringing the annual total enrollment to 200 or more.

Union Health’s gift will also create 10 merit-based scholarships awarding $3,000 to students who have successfully completed their first semester. The scholarships would be awarded at $1,000 per semester for their remaining three semesters in the program, beginning in the fall of the 2022-23 academic year.

Ellspermann concluded, “What I have found incredibly heartwarming is the partnerships that we have built and are deepening. We are working hand in glove. This is about doing what’s right for Hoosiers. I’m thrilled that we are nearly 20% of the workforce [at Union]but I think that it’s incumbent upon Ivy Tech to make sure that we’re providing the graduates that are needed in the professions in the community.”

David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at david.kronke@tribstar.com.

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