The University of Central Arkansas and Conway Regional Health System announced its latest partnership Wednesday aimed at addressing shortages in the numbers of registered nurses.

The Conway Regional Health Foundation is providing a total of $390,000, with $240,000 for student scholarships and $150,000 for faculty development and school of nursing initiatives.

According to a news release, the Partnership for Clinical Excellence (PCE) will award a $2,500 scholarship to an average of eight students in the UCA School of Nursing. Funds will be granted per semester for four semesters for students pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

“UCA continues to be a leader in producing exceptional clinical professionals for the healthcare industry in Arkansas, and we recognize the growing need for quality nursing graduates. We are uniquely positioned to meet the growing demand in our state and region,” UCA President Houston Davis, said. “Our leadership role in nursing will only increase as we partner in growth and development with the industry.” 

Conway Regional's Chief Executive Officer Matt Troup said they are proud to be part of the solution to the growing demand for quality nurses as long-time neighbors and partners working to impact the community and state.

"This partnership with UCA will ensure that we can continue to provide the community and our patients with excellent and compassionate care for years to come,” Troup said. “Health care providers across the country are looking for ways to tackle this critical nursing shortage, and we see this investment in education as an important step along with the added benefit of a focus on clinical best practice and other areas such as research and staff development."

The January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality included a report, “United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast," which indicated a projected nursing shortage between 2009 and 2030, with the most acute shortages in the south and west, the news release stated.

“UCA and Conway Regional have a long history of partnering," Susan Gatto, director of the UCA School of Nursing, said. "This latest initiative not only strengthens our partnership, but it is also a local approach to the national issue of the nursing shortage. Together, we can begin to address this issue.”

Nursing students will be admitted with the standard admissions requirements in the UCA School of Nursing, with the university and Conway Regional jointly selecting students for the PCE scholarships; PCE students also must commit to working for Conway Regional for a minimum of two years after graduation and passing licensure requirements.

UCA will also receive support for nursing faculty development and school of nursing initiatives through the Nursing Enhancement Fund, a $150,000 grant with $50,000 paid annually over three years.

“This is a unique approach to providing affordable access to a nursing degree," Conway Regional Chief Nursing Officer Angie Longing said. "As a UCA nursing graduate myself, I understand the challenges faced not only by the health care provider in great need of nurses, but also by the educational institutions striving to produce more graduates to meet the demand of the market. Our hope is that this new program can help more students pursue their dream of becoming a nurse."

Gatto said the nursing storage nationally is increased by the shortage of nursing facilities.

"In fact, the shortage of nursing faculty is just as critical as the shortage of nurses, if not more so,” Gatto said. “This initiative will help support the retention of current faculty and recruitment of other faculty here at UCA.” 

Since its establishment in 1967, the UCA School of Nursing has played a leadership role in nursing education. Programs offered include the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Masters of Science in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice.

"Consistently responding to the needs of students, changes in health care and education standards, UCA’s nursing degree programs ensure that students are prepared for a quickly evolving health care environment," the news release reads.