FORT MYERS

The scholarship program seeks to help certified nursing assistants make ends meet while studying to become nurses, hopefully before filling vacancies at Lee Health.

The Heart of Caring Scholarship was launched after Mark Aine was cared for by certified nurses at Lee’s health facility. He and his wife were so affected by their concerns that he decided to return and sponsor CNAs wishing to become nurses, and now this program is helping to address the critical shortage of nurses suffering in our hospitals.

On Friday, four CNA Southwest Florida will be awarded the Heart of Caring Scholarship. Health research estimates that by 2030, 1.2 million registered nurses will be needed, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, 500,000 nurses are expected to leave their jobs. Local hospitals say they are already feeling the strain.

“Southwest Florida’s population is growing steadily,” said Jennifer Thayer, workforce planning and development manager at Lee Health. “We don’t see that historic peak and valley we’ve seen before because there’s more sustainable growth and people stay. As for people who come and stay in Florida, they need medical care, so our number continues to grow …

The American Hospital Association claims that the study found that more than 35% of hospitals reported that the vacancy rate of nurses exceeded 10%. Scholarships such as Heart of Caring are replenishing the pool of nurses, Lee Health leaders say they hope for the future.

“There are a lot of people who would like to go back to school and get that kind of support, but it’s expensive and difficult,” said Jennifer Higgins, Lee Health’s chief nurse. “Joining the program is quite difficult, but then financial support allows them to continue, perhaps, work part-time, take care of their family at home and really relieve that stress. So it will really help develop our community of nurses. ”

CNAs apply for this scholarship after they have already been admitted to the School of Nursing, and they are selected based on their applications. The ceremony will begin at 12:30 in the Lee Health Foundation office at Med Plaza One, located at 9800 S. Healthpark Drive.

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