Blue Cross NC gives $1 million to Winston-Salem State to help combat nursing shortage

Heidi Finley

Photo by WSSU

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina recently announced a $1 million investment in Winston-Salem State University’s Division of Nursing.

WSSU will use the funds for scholarships to address access to care and nursing shortages, as well as enhancements to the division’s technology infrastructure.

“As a practicing physician, I’ve seen firsthand the central role that nurses play in creating a higher-quality, more affordable health care system,” Dr. Patrick Conway, president and CEO of Blue Cross NC, said in a news release.

“We are excited to be able to help Winston-Salem State University admit and train new nurses, especially from underserved and rural populations. To bring costs down and increase quality, we have to think more broadly about what it means to invest in health – this is a great example of that principle in action.”

According to a recent study by Georgetown University, North Carolina is projected to have the second-largest shortage of nurses in the nation – a deficit of 12,900 nurses, the news release said.

The shortage is especially challenging in rural North Carolina. The state’s metropolitan areas have 32 more nurses for every 10,000 people than rural counties. Seventy of North Carolina’s 80 rural counties are classified as “medical deserts” due to their lack of primary care, the release said.

“Winston-Salem State University appreciates this significant investment in our Division of Nursing,” WSSU Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson said in the release. “WSSU has been a trailblazer in training nurses, providing critically needed nursing professionals for more than 65 years. Through this gift, we will be able to take financial worries out of the learning equation, positioning our nursing students for success.”

WSSU’s goal for the funding is to increase the number of under-represented students graduating from the school’s nursing programs, thereby increasing the number of nurses practicing in primary care and rural areas.

In 2017, Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranked WSSU no. 1 in North Carolina for graduating African Americans into the fields of nursing and health professions. WSSU also ranked as a top 10 nursing school in the eastern United States and is ranked in the top 10 percent for value. The WSSU Division of Nursing is the third-largest producer of baccalaureate nurses in North Carolina, the release said.

 

Heidi Finley is the editor of Carolina College Bound. Send questions or suggestions to hfinley@charlotteobserver.com.