$1 million Kaiser Permanente grant to stimulate health care jobs, education

March 2, 2010
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As Colorado faces historic unemployment rates, a new partnership between Kaiser Permanente and four state colleges and universities will bring hundreds of new health care jobs to southern Colorado.

The $1 million program is unique because it supports careers in nursing and front line health care professionals such as lab/radiology technicians and medical assistants.

The majority of funds — $750,000 — will provide more than 100 scholarships to students pursuing degrees in nursing or allied health professions at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community College, Colorado State University Pueblo, and Pueblo Community College. An additional $250,000 will be allocated to a loan repayment program for health care professionals already employed by area safety net clinics.

Southern Colorado unemployment ranks among the highest in the state, and the region also faces a shortage of health care workers. In the nursing field alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million new and replacement nurses will be needed in the U.S. by 2016. Kaiser Permanente’s grant award addresses both of these problems in southern Colorado by providing hundreds of new scholarships and repaying workers’ loans.

The effort is believed the first in Colorado to tie loan repayment for allied health professionals to community clinics called “safety nets,” which provide free or low-cost care to underserved patients. Often, these facilities struggle to recruit or retain health care workers. In Colorado, the average safety net staff turnover rate is approximately 23 percent.

To qualify for these scholarships or loan repayments, individuals must commit to working two years in a designated safety net clinic.

“Our health care and educational sectors are caught in the perfect storm – demands are growing as budgets are tightening” said Donna Lynne, president of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “Kaiser Permanente recognized this challenge as an opportunity to invest in an innovative workforce development program that supports our educational institutions and places nurses and other health care professionals in the clinics that need them most.”

Scholarships will be available to students pursuing degrees in nursing and allied health occupations for the Fall 2010 semester at the four partner institutions. The amount of money and the number of scholarships to be awarded varies depending on the school. Students may contact each school’s financial aid office for application deadlines and additional details.

The loan repayment program is anticipated to begin in fall 2010, as soon as the participating safety net clinics are identified.

“Kaiser Permanente is investing in the future and helping students and the communities of southern Colorado to reach higher. We are grateful for this support,” said UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak.

- Amy Whited, Kaiser Permanente Colorado

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