MILWAUKEE – The University of Wisconsin System and several state partners have been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to help solve the nation’s growing nursing shortage.
The grant will fund a program called “The State of Wisconsin Initiative to Fast-Track (SWIFT) Nurse Educators,” which will address the nursing shortage by reducing the length of time it takes nurses to complete their education in Wisconsin colleges and universities by approximately 18 months. Currently, more than 3,000 potential students are on wait lists for Wisconsin nursing programs.
One of 12 grant recipients from nearly 230 applicants for funding under the President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative, the SWIFT program is expected to be matched dollar-for-dollar by organizations in Wisconsin’s private sector, and is considered a model for similar programs across the country.
“The SWIFT proposal will reduce the greatest barrier to producing a sufficient and diverse nursing workforce by increasing the number of nursing faculty available to teach future nurses,” said Dr. Sally Lundeen, dean of the College of Nursing at UW-Milwaukee. “Thanks to significant investment from the federal government and private-sector employers, this is a win-win strategy that will boost Wisconsin’s health-care workforce capacity.”
The SWIFT proposal will utilize the educational foundation in place at UW System campuses and Wisconsin Technical Colleges, as well as resources from the state Department of Workforce Development and other state agencies, health care associations and providers, and state workforce development boards.
SWIFT is expected to ensure that 70 new nurse educators with master’s degrees are available by 2007, making it possible to educate 800 more students per year. In addition, it is anticipated that at least 20 percent of trainees will be from minority populations, increasing cultural competence in health care across the state.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Wisconsin and the UW System, and we are eager to begin to tackle this critical need,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “The SWIFT collaboration demonstrates both our value as a public university that takes leadership in responding to state needs, and the efficiency of having a strong university system that can tap expertise, resources, and talent from among its various campuses and its statewide partners.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), who helped the Wisconsin consortium navigate the grant process, said the project will be essential for meeting Wisconsin’s health care needs.
“By fast-tracking nurses to serve as instructors, we can help more aspiring nurses receive the education they need to begin their vital work,” Ryan said. “This grant is also great news for our region in southeastern Wisconsin, as it will help address the shortage of nursing faculty and the nurses they train, as well as ensure our workforce is among the leaders in providing quality patient care.”
The SWIFT Nurse Educators proposal grew from a 2003 task force convened by Gov. Jim Doyle to develop and implement strategies to alleviate the state’s health care worker shortage.
“The unique public-private partnership that supports the SWIFT initiative is essential to ensure Wisconsin will be ready to meet the health care needs of Badger baby boomers,” said Tom Moore, executive director of the Wisconsin Health Care Association. “I am most appreciative of the assistance and support our grant proposal received from Governor Doyle, State Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman, and the entire Wisconsin Congressional Delegation. Our federal representatives truly recognized the magnitude of the crisis, and the urgency of the need to pursue this undertaking.”
Collaborating and supporting partners include: Wisconsin Technical College System, Wisconsin Workforce Development Boards, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Alverno College, and private health care sector associations, providers, business, and labor organizations.
“This grant will help Wisconsin stay at the forefront of the nation’s growth in the health care field,” Gassman said. “Thanks to the cooperation of many Wisconsin agencies, industry leaders and education partners, we can ensure Wisconsin’s workforce is prepared to meet future health care challenges.”