LewisGale Tackles Nurse Shortage in Southwest Virginia

Salem, Virginia. – On a patient’s worst day, nurses like Helena Tilley are by their side.

“Being there for them and being someone they can rely on,” said Tilley, director of the Pulmonary, Kidney and Oncology Medical Surgery Units.

But these days, it’s increasingly difficult to find people willing to take on the role. A nursing shortage is affecting LewisGale and hospitals across the country. Nationally, research shows the country could experience a shortage of up to 450,000 nurses if health care leaders and federal officials do not take action.

“We’ve had to be creative and innovative in how we staff our hospitals,” said Amy Woods, chief nursing officer at LewisGale Medical Center in Salem.

Aging nurses approaching retirement age, work-related stress during the pandemic, and the increase in well-paying travel nursing jobs are all factors.

Nurses say the shortage starts in the classroom, which is why LewisGale is partnering with Galen College of Nursing.

“How to encourage younger generations to want to become nurses? Woods said. “It starts at an early age.”

Yet staffing academia is also a challenge. Putting a nurse in a classroom is taking one out of a hospital.

Another new initiative is that LewisGale is offering $800,000 in scholarships to new or current employees to pursue nursing careers at its Southwest Virginia facilities, including LewisGale Medical Center, LewisGale Alleghany Hospital, The LewisGale Montgomery Hospital and LewisGale Pulaski Hospital, as well as their Central Virginia and New Hampshire Hospitals. The funds will support the path to becoming a Licensed Practical/Professional Nurse or Registered Nurse within HCA Healthcare.

The scholarships are eligible for nursing students who are currently enrolled in a program accredited by the Board of Nursing. LPN/LVN scholarships are $7,000 per student and RN scholarships are $14,000. There is a one-year full-time employment commitment at an HCA Healthcare facility upon completion. Candidates are also entitled to signing bonuses upon hiring.

“This scholarship is a huge encouragement,” Woods said.

Tilley says it’s a career worth pursuing.

″It is an enriching field. Not only are you helping someone through the most difficult time of their life, potentially,” Tilley said. “There are educational opportunities. There is a possibility of growth.

If you are interested in a nursing career with LewisGale, click here.

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