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Addressing NC’s nursing shortage to improve health care

By John Smith, MD | April 29, 2018 | Community Health

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Nurses play a central role in increasing the value of health care by improving outcomes and lowering costs.

They, as some like to say, put the care in health care. Unfortunately, a recent Georgetown University study showed that North Carolina is projected to have the second largest nursing shortage in the country. The deficit? 12,900 nurses.

While the shortage of nurses is state-wide, the largest place it is being felt is in rural North Carolina counties. 88 percent of the rural counties in North Carolina lack access to primary care, classifying them as “medical deserts.” These communities are typically made up of minority populations who are more susceptible to social determinants of health. They’re in need of qualified health care professionals, specifically nurses. That’s where Blue Cross NC comes into play.

Investing in the State’s Next Generation of Nurses

Improving access to care for rural communities and addressing the nursing shortage are issues we’re hoping to address with our most recent community investments.

By investing $1 million to the nursing program at North Carolina Central University, Fayetteville State University, Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina A&T —four historically black universities – we believe we can better address the needs of our state’s minority communities and address the nursing shortage impacting our state. This investment is part of Blue Cross NC’s commitment to contribute $50 million towards community health initiatives in 2018.

Blue Cross NC’s investment will be used for scholarships, recruitment, and retention of nursing students.

The investment will also be used to enhance the universities technology infrastructure, providing students with cutting-edge technology to help them excel in the field. Example technologies include things like smart classrooms, computer laboratories and state-of-the-art simulators used to train nursing students.

Why Invest in HBCU’s?

Investing in HBCU’s will help increase access to care for those counties classified as medical deserts. It will also help lead to better health outcomes by promoting a more diverse medical community. A more diverse medical community is beneficial for a variety of reasons. For one, patients who are part of a minority community typically feel safer and more at ease when they feel culturally connected to their nurse. A diverse medical field also helps foster an enhanced understanding of medicine. This helps bring together a broader scope of thinking and more holistic medical solutions.

These four universities have proven to be premier nursing schools in our state. They offer programs for a variety of degrees and exceptional curriculums. These curriculums guarantee nurses will graduate with the skills and clinical experiences they need to be successful in their field. But these programs do not only teach technical skills, they also teach their students how to problem-solve, learn from their experiences, communicate effectively and show compassion when treating or talking with patients and family members. Skills that are equally as important as technical, clinical knowledge.

We’re excited to invest in these programs and see the lasting impact these futures nurses have on our state. Blue Cross NC and the four universities share a commitment to ensuring all North Carolinians have access to the highest quality care. Together, we can address the nursing shortage in our state and build a diverse medical community that drives lower costs and better health outcomes.