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Tanner, University of West Georgia Partner to Secure Future for Region’s Nurses

With solid employment opportunities and looming nursing shortages on the horizon, Tanner Health System and the University of West Georgia have announced a new partnership that will bolster opportunities for current and future nurses throughout the region and support the delivery of high quality nursing care.

The university’s nursing program—which will be named the Tanner Health System School of Nursing as part of the new partnership—will use an investment from Tanner to increase enrollment and enhance its facilities while offering scholarship and educational opportunities for those in west Georgia and east Alabama interested in a career in nursing.

“This partnership accomplishes several things,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System. “For one, it expands the nursing program at the University of West Georgia, so more residents from our region will have the opportunity to pursue careers in nursing. Looking five to 10 years ahead, that will be critical to both our region’s health and our region’s economic prospects. Also, this investment provides ways to enhance the skills of Tanner’s current staff of nurses.”

Tanner nurses will gain access to the university’s advanced nursing training simulators, which will help them learn the latest best practices in healthcare and keep their skills sharp, Howard explained. The program also will provide opportunities for Tanner’s nurses to continue their education.

“The Tanner Health System School of Nursing will be a destination for many who want a successful professional career as a nurse, leader and educator with the goal of providing safe and person-centered care in a rapidly changing healthcare environment,” said Dr. Kathryn Grams, dean and professor of nursing at UWG. “It will help develop a local workforce that has bright prospects from a vibrant, growing regional health system. We’re very excited for this partnership with Tanner.”

The University’s School of Nursing exemplifies academic excellence in a caring environment by providing quality undergraduate and graduate education to meet current and evolving health care needs within the global community. Its vision is to be a leader in the scholarship of teaching and learning through the empowerment of graduates and colleagues who exhibit the ability and courage to create quality caring in healthcare and educational systems. Programs offered include a traditional BSN program that prepares students for initial licensure as a registered nurse (RN) and three non-traditional online programs. The online programs include an RN-BSN program for nurses seeking professional advancement and preparation for graduate study, an MSN program with role options in either education or health systems leadership as a leader/manager or clinical nurse leader, and an Ed.D. in nursing education program to prepare nurses for faculty roles.

The school occupies a new state-of-the art building with high fidelity simulation suites and problem-based, technology-enhanced classrooms and has more than 475 undergraduate and graduate nursing students enrolled this fall.

"The partnership forged by this generous commitment from Tanner Health System will enhance the quality and prominence of UWG's nursing program, provide much needed scholarship support for our nursing students and build the bridge to future health science programs," said Dr. Kyle Marrero, president of UWG.

The health system and university have long worked together to provide opportunities for nurses, including clinical rotations at Tanner facilities so those involved in the nursing programs can gain hands-on experience. Tanner also has recruited many UWG graduates to join its workforce of more than 2,600 employees, helping to keep locally grown talent in the community.

With the new partnership with Tanner, the university is preparing to expand its nursing program and scholarship opportunities for residents in west Georgia, east Alabama and beyond.

“This is a way to do something that’s good for the university, good for the health system and good for our community,” said Howard. “Those graduating from these growing programs will be the front line of health care in the years to come. They will have ever more responsibility for providing care to our community, because along with a nursing shortage, we’re also forecasted to experience a significant shortage of physicians. These nurses will be able to work side by side with physicians, and also go on to become nurse educators and leaders, nurse practitioners and healthcare providers in their own right. That is a major advantage for west Georgia and east Alabama.”

Through the partnership, Tanner is establishing an endowment fund for the School of Nursing at UWG, as well as a scholarship fund that will support area students who choose to stay in west Georgia after graduation. Funds from Tanner’s endowment will be used to help the university expand its nursing programs, reducing the impact of the nursing shortage on the region.

“The University of West Georgia and Tanner Health System have long been partners in providing opportunities and bettering lives for residents in our region,” said Howard. “Tanner and UWG are major forces in this region, and we’re in a unique position to help local residents make a positive and lasting impact on our community’s health.”

The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the healthcare sector will be one of the nation’s largest areas for job growth. A February 2012 report from the bureau said registered nursing is the nation’s top occupation in terms of job growth through 2020, with the number of employed nurses growing 26 percent, from 2.74 million in 2010 to 3.45 million in 2020.

Georgia alone is expected to experience a shortage of 260,000 nurses by 2025.

The aging of the “Baby Boomer” generation, the looming retirement of thousands of experienced nurses and increased access to health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act are key factors behind the growing opportunities for those in health care.

“There are ample career opportunities for highly skilled, well-educated nurses,” said Dean Grams. “This is a field that will experience dynamic growth. It’s also a field that will play an important role in expanding access to healthcare.”

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