St. Joseph Health Invests $2 Million in North Coast Nursing Program

Mar 16, 2019
Grant will kick-start the permanent endowment to support the Humboldt State University RN to BSN Program

Humboldt County — Officials from St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County (SJH-HC), Humboldt State University, College of the Redwoods, and Senator Mike McGuire announced today that St. Joseph Health is making a $2 million grant to help re-launch the RN to BSN nursing program at HSU.

Health care leaders and elected officials from across the county were on hand as the grant was announced at Humboldt State University Saturday morning. Many of them, including Senator McGuire, have been part of the coalition that has been instrumental in establishing the North Coast Nursing Program.

“As a non-profit health care organization, St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County is blessed to be in a position to sustain the rich legacy of caring for our community that our founding Sisters chartered nearly a century ago,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, M.D., chief executive, SJH-HC. “It is with this deep understanding of our commitment to serve our dear neighbors that we enter into this momentous partnership with HSU.”

The $2 million grant is a major investment in enhancing health care and addressing the nursing shortage on the North Coast. SJH-HC is providing the grant through its Community Benefit program, which designates a portion of the organization’s annual operating expenses for investing in the health and wellness of the community.

“There is a severe nursing shortage on the North Coast and it’s impacting the health and well-being of patients and increasing the cost of delivering healthcare,” said Senator Mike McGuire, who has spearheaded the launch of the North Coast Nursing Program with Humboldt State and the College of the Redwoods. “We are truly grateful for St. Joseph Health stepping up and making a major investment to the nursing endowment and for the groundbreaking partnership of HSU and the College of the Redwoods who are leading the way to educate the next generation of nurses on the North Coast."

The RN to BSN program will allow registered nurses who already have an associate’s degree to complete their bachelor’s degree in nursing. The additional education will enable nurses to meet new hiring educational requirements some hospitals have implemented which require a BSN degree and allow them to prepare for leadership or advanced clinical training such as nurse practitioner roles. The program will also ensure the North Coast is educating its own nurses, which will make the entire healthcare system more resilient and create hundreds of family sustaining careers in the years to come. Nurses will be able to continue working while completing the program.

Based on discussions with health care providers throughout the area, the curriculum is focused on particular needs of the North Coast: preparing nurse leaders who understand health disparities, rural needs, and cultural humility, and who can advocate for the physical and psychosocial health of the region’s communities. On-site training will take place at St. Joseph Hospital and other health care facilities throughout the region.

In recognition of the grant, an endowed chair for the director of the program will be named in honor of SJH-HC.

HSU President Lisa Rossbacher expressed her gratitude to the many people who have worked to make this collaborative program a reality. “This partnership with St. Joseph, the community, and the College of the Redwoods is a wonderful example of how we can work together to address critical regional needs,” she said. “With Senator McGuire’s strong support, we are making major progress in bringing this plan to reality. This new program will benefit the entire region.”

Efforts to develop the RN to BSN program have been underway for nearly three years, following a pivotal gathering of health care leaders, HSU officials, and Senator McGuire. At that meeting, there was broad agreement on the need for such a program and commitments to support it.

In the last few months, University officials and others have launched a campaign for the first phase of an endowment to support the program. The leadership shown by St. Joseph gives the effort significant momentum to meet the goal of enrolling the first students by Fall 2020.