Health

Bellarmine University got a financial boost on Monday from Norton Healthcare to continue educating nurses amid a shortage in Kentucky.

The $1.5 million over the next five years will go toward the school’s nursing program, which offers a Bachelors of Science Nursing. The program produces registered nurses, advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners.

Nancy York, assistant dean of nursing at Bellarmine, said 95 percent of graduates go on to work in acute-care hospitals. She said the nursing shortage ebbs and flows, but there’s currently a low supply in Kentucky.

“It’s worse in the rural areas. It’s harder to keep nurses than in the bigger cities. But Louisville is currently experiencing a significant shortage,” York said. “There’s not as many people going into the profession.”

In 2015, there were 2,669 openings for registered nurses in the state, which was the occupation with the most openings, according to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. And there will need to be 16,047 more registered nurses by 2024 to meet the needs of an aging population, according to the cabinet.

Russell F. Cox, president, Norton Healthcare, announces the five-year grant by Norton Healthcare’s James R. Petersdorf Fund at a press conference with Dr. Doris Tegart, Bellarmine’s interim president.Courtesy Norton Healthcare

Russell F. Cox, president, Norton Healthcare, announces the five-year grant by Norton Healthcare’s James R. Petersdorf Fund at a press conference with Dr. Doris Tegart, Bellarmine’s interim president.

In recent years, York said, there have been more opportunities to become nurse practitioners, work in management or explore other careers that require more education. This, coupled with an aging population, means there aren’t enough nurses staying at the bedside.

Norton Healthcare includes five hospitals, more than 1,800 beds and 140 clinics in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Part of the money goes toward an endowed chair in graduate nursing.

Tracy Williams, senior vice president and system chief nursing officer at Norton, said many of Norton’s nurses eventually move to new jobs that are being created.

“We don’t have a shortage. We have people that come in and move throughout as they develop their career,” Williams said. “That means I have to create a backfill for that individual.”

The money will also go toward new space for the Institute for Advanced Analytics and expanded access to health services for students and faculty.