Faced with difficulty in filling its nursing positions during a nationwide shortage, Bartlett Regional Hospital is offering two scholarships to local college students.
"The nursing shortage, obviously we're concerned about that," said Sheryl Washburn, the hospital's patient care administrator.
The hospital also wants to provide jobs for locals who are interested in nursing, she said. "Hopefully, we can keep them here long term."
The full scholarships will pay for two students to complete a two-semester associate's nursing degree program offered in Southeast Alaska by Weber State University of Utah. Tuition is $5,600. In return, the students must agree to work full-time at Bartlett for at least two years.
Turnover among nurses is not increasing at Bartlett, but the workforce is aging and fewer people are entering the field, Washburn said. Four nursing vacancies have been open for more than a month, she said.
Bartlett employs about 120 nurses, nearly all of whom are registered nurses. A few are licensed practical nurses or mental health assistants.
The Weber State associate's degree will allow students to take the state test to become RNs. Last year, Weber State and the University of Alaska Southeast offered a program that prepared students to take the LPN exam.
In the LPN program, Southeast students took science and certified nursing assistant courses at UAS, nursing theory courses from Weber State over the Internet, and did practical training at local hospitals under the guidance of medical staff and Weber State faculty.
Twenty-three students in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan combined graduated with LPN certificates last year, the first year of the program. Twenty-one planned to continue for the associate's degree, said Betty Damask-Bembenek, the outreach coordinator for Weber State.