Grady, GSU receive $23.6 million to fight “critical nursing shortage”
Thanks to a $23.6 million gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Georgia State University (GSU) and Grady Hospital have established a partnership to strengthen the pipeline of education to employment for nursing students.
Currently, GSU has a higher demand of applicants to the Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions than the university can accommodate, while Grady — just down the street — is facing a critical shortage of nursing staff.
This is a crucial partnership between two big-name Atlanta institutions, with GSU as the state’s largest university and Grady providing high-quality trauma and emergency care. This donation allocates $12 million to the university, with $11.6 million going to the hospital, funding a joint education program with clinical learning opportunities for students and a new simulation lab on each site.
GSU’s nursing program generally accepts about 150 students each year, with an admission rate of 20 percent or lower, according to Byrdine F. Lewis Dean Huanbiao Mo. He added that many applicants have high GPAs who “could be potentially highly qualified nurses if we’d had the capacity to train them.”
Despite meeting applicant requirements, many of these students are turned away due to a shortage of clinical opportunities, a requirement for the nursing program. Clinicals are “critical for nursing students,” Mo explained, offering students the chance to work in a hospital while learning from experienced staff nurses.
While the metro area has many hospitals, there is competition for space among local universities. While some GSU students already work at Grady for their clinical experience, most students will now be stationed at the downtown hospital, making Grady the college’s primary clinical partner.
The nursing school accepted 80 students into its spring cohort instead of the typical 75, with space for 85 students in the fall. By 2024, the program will have resources for 250 students a year, according to Grady President and CEO John Haupert.
Simulation labs are another key component of training, and GSU’s current equipment is limited and outdated, so most of GSU’s funds will be used to create an on-campus simulation lab to provide realistic medical scenarios. Grady will also build a high-grade simulation lab and education center at the hospital.
“In the simulation lab, you have those mannequins like you see on TV, and they look like a real patient who is coming here for a diagnosis or tests,” Mo said. “This is a place where we can provide a very safe environment for students to learn all the clinical skills before they move into the real hospital environment. If we do something wrong in the simulation lab, nothing major will happen. But you don’t want that situation in a hospital.”
In addition to the efforts to train nursing students, the Woodruff Foundation donation will help Grady secure more staff through scholarships for students who commit to working at the hospital after graduation.
“There’s a true critical nursing shortage across the country, and hospitals like Grady and all of the hospitals in the metro region are struggling right now because of the lack of available nurses to serve patients. That’s increased costs for hospitals because of the need to pay overtime or work with recruiting agencies,” said Joselyn Baker, president of the Grady Health Foundation. “[These factors] obviously strains the existing staff because the number of patients isn’t declining.”
Haupert added: “That existed prior to the COVID pandemic, and the COVID pandemic just made it much worse because the demand on nurses at the bedside caused some to say, ‘I’m not staying on the bedside in the hospital, I’m gonna go work in a doctor’s office instead.’ The work just became so intense.”
Russell Hardin, president of the Woodruff Foundation, hopes this partnership will boost the local medical industry and remind folks of “the fundamental importance of Grady to our state.”
“Every Georgian has a stake in Grady’s mission. This crisis in nursing is an existential threat to hospitals like Grady that operate without the profit margins that other hospitals enjoy,” Hardin said. “[GSU] will have more seats for folks who would like to pursue a career in nursing, and we hope that a disproportionate number of those will stay right here to work and live in Atlanta.”