BHSH System inks $19M nurse training partnership with Grand Valley State University

BHSH System, the newly formed combination of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, has partnered with nearby Grand Valley State University on a new program to expand the nurse training pipeline in western Michigan.

The system said Tuesday that it is investing more than $19 million in what the organizations are calling the BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan Nurse Scholar program.

In comments to the press, leaders from the system and the university said the collaboration is expected to train nearly 500 additional student nurses over a six-year period.

Graduates of the program, which the organizations expect to be in place by January pending approvals and accreditation, will be expected to work at BHSH System’s Spectrum Health West Michigan, although they said the details of that arrangement are still being hammered out.

“We are addressing the financial barriers to college and smoothing the educational path to employment at BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan,” BHSH System President and CEO Tina Freese Decker said during a Tuesday virtual press event. “This partnership is a fantastic example of challenging the status quo and taking a bold step forward to meet a critical need in our communities, in our state, and potentially in a model that can be replicated across the rest of the country by others.”

Philomena Mantella, president of Grand Valley State University, said the university's current nursing program isn’t constrained by a lack of physical facilities but by faculty-to-student ratios, the number of clinicals available to students and similar requirements. As such, about half of BHSH’s investment will go toward expanding faculty and staff, simulation center hours available to students and other infrastructure support.

This will allow the university’s college of nursing to add just over 100 additional students per year, Dean Lola Coke said. Currently, the school admits 160 pre-nursing students into its “traditional” two-year program and 72 students into another track for those with bachelor’s degrees into its “second degree” program annually, she said, but over the years the university has been forced to turn away potential enrollees due to capacity.

The other half of BHSH’s investment will go “directly to students” in the form of $10,000 per year tuition grants, Mantella said. While students in both programs will be eligible for the grants, she noted that the money is particularly helpful for those in the second degree program who might be financially constrained as they consider a career shift.

Coke said tuition for the two-year nursing school program will run students about $30,000, excluding other expenses such as simulation center usage.

Nursing shortages are looming large across the country as more caretakers leave the workforce and an aging population drives future demand. Hospital and health system leaders have cited understaffing of registered nurses and other skilled staff as their top concern over the past year.

BHSH and Grand Valley State University leaders highlighted their new collaboration as a proactive step other provider and educational organizations could emulate to address the issue.

“Students, you have a new opportunity here to come and really fulfill your dreams to be a nurse and to work at that goal at two premier organizations, and I hope this will inspire you,” Mantella said. “To our enterprises, let’s work together on pathways like this that create more inclusive opportunities for our citizens to realize their dream and so that we can fulfill our needs.”