Pine Rest providing tuition assistance to nursing students

Students can apply for $40,000 for 4 semesters of tuition at Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, Calvin University or Montcalm Community College.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There are not enough nurses to take care of patients in West Michigan. A recent report finds that one third of registered nurses are considering another career, and many have left the field since the start of the pandemic.

To fight the nurse labor shortage, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is partnering with four colleges in West Michigan to invest in the future, through the Pine Rest Academy for Nursing Students. The psychiatric care facility is hoping to get more students through nursing programs and into the field by helping out with tuition.

“We have 40 open nursing positions right now,” Chief Operating Officer Bob Nykamp says. “And so until we can really meet the community need for nursing, I think access is going to continue to be a concern.”

Through the Pine Rest Academy, nursing students can apply to receive $10,000 per semester, or $40,000 total for their tuition at Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, Calvin University or Montcalm Community College. Those applying need to already be accepted into one of these schools and can be a new or existing student.

As part of the program, students will work part-time at Pine Rest while going to school then full-time there for two years after graduation.

“We really wanted to get to the source of the problem, which is there are just not enough nurses,” Nykamp says.

At Calvin University, at least six undergraduate students per year can be eligible. The School of Health’s Dean, Dr. Adejoke Ayoola, says the nurse labor shortage is a combination of retiring nurses from the baby boomer generation, plus burnout over the last three years.

“We’ve seen that some nurses, they are leaving the profession, they are switching or taking a break, because the pandemic requires them to work a lot, even work extra hours, just to meet clients’ needs,” she says.

At GVSU, 36 students over the next three years can be part of this program. Those who are eligible are from the university’s second-degree program, which can face additional financial barriers.

“Those students that already have an existing degree often already carry student loan debt. And because they’re a little bit more mature than our traditional undergrad students, they often will have other financial responsibilities,” Dr. Lola Coke, acting dean of Kirkhof College of Nursing at GVSU, says.

For Cornerstone University, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jonathan Marko says this is a great opportunity for seniors.

“That stress of trying to locate a position, although they are rather plentiful in West Michigan, this is just an opportunity for them to really hit the ground running,” he says.

Pine Rest hopes to expand to additional schools in West Michigan.

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