Mount, UPMC create partnership

Mount Aloysius College and three UPMC hospitals are working together to provide up to $54,000 in incentives over five years to help the area deal with a nursing shortage.

Mount Aloysius is offering $24,000 scholarships for students from Pennsylvania who enroll in the college’s two-year Associate RN degree program or who enter the final two years of the Mount’s “pre-licensure” Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

UPMCs Altoona, Bedford and Somerset are offering $20,000 in forgivable loans for those students and a $10,000 signing bonus if they commit to working at one of those hospitals for three years, according to information from the organizations.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Mount Aloysius President John McKeegan in a phone interview.

The arrangement will benefit the college, the health system and the community, because the region needs nurses “desperately” — much like the state as a whole and the nation, McKeegan said.

The deal will allow both recent high school graduates and others to launch careers in a profession that’s in high demand — and that will continue to be in high demand — “at little to no net cost,” McKeegan said.

Nurses are “the backbone” of UPMC’s system, said UPMCs Altoona and Bedford President Jan Fisher, a bedside nurse before she became an administrator. “We need more of them,” she said.

Mount Aloysius currently sends 20 to 25 nurses per year to UPMC, according to McKeegan.

The program should help double that, he said.

UPMC initiated the effort that led to the agreement, asking local schools with nursing programs to make proposals.

UPMC chose the Mount’s, McKeegan said.

UPMC will provide the necessary clinical experience for the students,

McKeegan said.

The arrangement is in keeping with higher education literature that touts specialized partnerships with major employers as the “future,” McKeegan said.

It’s also in keeping with the college’s mission, which includes a provision calling for the college to be a community asset, he said.

One of the benefits for UPMC of choosing the Mount as a partner is the high percentage of Mount students from the area who remain here after school, according to McKeegan.

The Mount is no Ivy Leaguer: Half of the students are the first in their families to attend college and 42% are “Pell-eligible,” indicating their families are at or below federal poverty, according to McKeegan.

Yet, “I’ll put our graduates up against any school’s,” the president said.

It helps that students get “personalized attention and support” from faculty, he said.

The nursing shortage reflects the increasing medical needs of a population with a big cohort — baby boomers — now growing old; and the increasing number of nurses from that group who are retiring, according to McKeegan.

“Nursing school enrollment is not keeping pace,” he said.

The arrangement will require the college to increase its nursing instruction faculty, according to McKeegan. He doesn’t think it will be a problem. That faculty will be conscious that the students they’re training will eventually be caring for the faculty members’ parents, siblings and friends, McKeegan said.

After completing their three-year local obligation, program participants can transfer within the UPMC system, McKeegan said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.


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