story by Van Mitchell, Contributing Writer
INTEGRIS Health and Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford recently announced a partnership between the two entities establishing tuition support opportunities for first-semester enrollees in a SWOSU nursing program.
The three-year partnership is intended for INTEGRIS Health caregivers who are seeking degrees in the LPN – RN / BSN program, RN-to-BSN program, traditional BSN program and the MSN program at SWOSU.
“We have been partnered with all of our different academic institutions across the state, and they have a new dean at SWOSU, and she wanted to connect with INTEGRIS Health to see what we could further do to advance our pipeline for nursing,” INTEGRIS Health Chief Nurse Executive, Kerri Bayer, MSN. “They were pursuing some different avenues like virtual offerings, and trying to invest and open up the pathway for nurses, and they reached out to us to see if we could partner, and how we wanted to support it.” (story continues below)
As the state’s largest not-for-profit health system complete with hospitals, rehabilitation centers, physician clinics, virtual care, mental health facilities and home health agencies, INTEGRIS Health is always welcoming caregivers with a passion for people.
“My career began 24 years ago as a bedside nurse, so I’m extremely passionate about providing opportunities to support those wanting a nursing career. I’m excited at what this partnership will do for INTEGRIS Health, SWOSU and future nursing students,” Bayer said.
According to a press release, Southwestern Oklahoma State University is one of the leading regional universities in the country. The SWOSU Nursing program was established in 1976 and was the first rural baccalaureate nursing program in Oklahoma welcoming more than 400 nursing students per year.
“INTEGRIS Health is excited to partner with SWOSU,” Bayer said. “We are offering scholarship opportunities for anyone who is interested in a health career path. If a student contacts INTEGRIS Health, and we know they have an interest (in nursing), and they live in the community around Weatherford, we can connect them to what works for them. All you need to do is reach out to us and we will get you connected with the appropriate resources.”
Echoing Bayer, SWOSU President, Dr. Diana Lovell said, “SWOSU’s partnership with INTEGRIS Health allows us to double down on our commitment to helping Oklahoma meet its critical workforce needs. The tuition assistance offered by INTEGRIS Health will make a lifelong impact in the lives of our students.”
Dr. Angela Gore, DPN, RN, Director of Nursing Programs/MSN Program Coordinator Department of Nursing at SWOSU, said she was excited about the partnership with INTEGRIS Health.
“Our partnership, along with the tuition assistance from INTEGRIS Health should have a huge impact on Oklahoma nurses,” she said.
Gore said SWOSU has taken the “thinking outside the box,” approach to dealing with Oklahoma’s nursing shortage.
“The nursing shortage weighs heavily on our minds, and we have tried to think outside the box to find ways to educate more nurses,” she said. “One of these ways was the creation of our mostly online LPN-to-BSN program. This program accepts students who are currently licensed as practical nurses and provides them with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform at the baccalaureate level of nursing.”
Gore said with INTEGRIS Health’s tuition assistance, students should be able to attend the LPN-to-BSN program without incurring much personal debt.
“A lack of resources for pursuing higher education is often a limiting factor for nurses considering career advancement, and the tuition assistance provided by Integris can alleviate that burden,” she said.
Gore said the INTERGIS Health-SWOSU partnership helps secure employment opportunities for students.
“With our partnership, a student can begin working at INTEGRIS Health as a Licensed Practical Nurse, continue working while taking classes, and continue to work at INTEGRIS Health following graduation as a Registered Nurse,” she said. “Studies show that patients cared for by baccalaureate-prepared Registered Nurses have fewer incidences of morbidity and mortality than patients cared for by nurses without that level of education. All of our nursing programs educate nurses to provide care at this level or higher.”
Gore said SWOSU’s online RN-to-BSN program welcomes students that have an Associate degree in nursing.
“These students may also be able to benefit from the tuition assistance provided by INTEGRIS Health,” she said. “Our traditional nursing program accepted all qualified students into the program this year, and we encourage these students to explore the tuition assistance options that INTEGRIS provides. We believe increasing collaboration with our hospital partners will ultimately lead to a narrowing of the gap between the supply and demand for nurses in the state of Oklahoma.”
For INTEGRIS Health job opportunities, please visit www.integrisok.com/careers. For more information on the SWOSU Nursing Degree Program, please visit www.swosu.edu/academics/nursing.