Baltimore County Addresses Nursing Shortage with Scholarships in Underserved Communities

Baltimore County Addresses Nursing Shortage with Scholarships in Underserved Communities

Nurses continue to be in high demand as hospitals struggle to fill their ranks. But, in Baltimore County, a new partnership could fill that gap.

Baltimore County, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center (UM SJMC), and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) are partnering to launch the Public Health Pathways Program. This innovative workforce development partnership aims to connect residents in historically underserved communities with high-demand nursing positions.

The joint initiative leverages federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding to meet dual imperatives of providing workforce training to economically disadvantaged residents while helping to address a national nursing shortage.

“We believe we have an opportunity and an obligation to provide more economic opportunity for our residents. We enthusiastically launch an incredible program that will pull some of our most financially vulnerable residents out of poverty by giving them a pathway to rewarding careers in healthcare with one of the country’s most esteemed medical systems,” says Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

“The pandemic stretched thin our invaluable medical professionals and first responders while exposing critical gaps in our healthcare systems,” says U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee. “This announcement by the dynamic partners from Baltimore County, CCBC, and St. Joseph’s Medical Center moves us in exactly the right direction, providing life-changing opportunities to those selected for the program and potentially life-saving care to their eventual patients.”

The Public Health Pathways Program pilot will initially provide 30 scholarships that will fully cover the cost of tuition and all educational fees for the CCBC Certified Nursing Assistant program. In addition, to remove barriers to learning, students selected to participate in the program will receive a $1,000 per month workforce stipend, which can be flexibly used to supplement wages, address transportation or housing needs, and pay for childcare or other workforce-related barriers. Participants will receive additional financial incentives upon completion of educational programs.

Upon completing CCBC’s Certified Nursing Assistant program, graduates will be offered guaranteed employment with full benefits at UM SJMC, where they will continue their education in a Practical Nursing program, creating a career ladder to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Participants will receive a 24-month education program, including four months of CNA training, four months of prerequisites, and 16 months of LPN education.

This $1.175 million workforce development collaboration is funded through a combination of Baltimore County federal ARPA funds and a $500,000 investment from UMMS.

“As an anchor institution in our community, the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center is thrilled to partner with Baltimore County government and CCBC in providing career opportunities to those called to serve in the field of healthcare,” says Thomas B. Smyth, MD, President, and CEO at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. “By offering these opportunities, we hope to inspire and empower a new generation of healthcare providers ready to provide loving service and compassionate care.”

CCBC and UM SJMC will collaborate to develop a work and learning schedule that promotes success, including offering courses on-site and identifying opportunities to blend the work and learning experience. Additionally, the organizations will provide mentorship, tutoring, and support for all participants to ensure they graduate as LPNs, moving them into high-skill and high-demand careers.

The Public Health Pathways Program application, including eligibility requirements, will be released in early January 2023, with the first cohort of trainees expected to begin coursework in the summer of 2023.