URI professors win grant to help registered nurses earn University bachelors’ degrees

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 22, 1999 — Two University of Rhode Island nursing professors have been awarded a $50,000 grant to provide scholarships for minority and economically disadvantaged registered nurses who want to earn their bachelors’ degrees and practice in a community-based setting. The grant from the Helene Fuld Health Trust, HSBC, Trustee, the nation’s largest private endowment for nursing education, will assist those students who have graduated from an associate degree or diploma program. URI’s College of Nursing was one of only 27 schools in the country to be awarded such a grant. It also received the maximum amount of funding. “Diversifying our student population, in particular the registered nurse student, is crucial as we approach the next decade,” said Dayle Joseph, interim dean of the College of Nursing. “These nurses will help us to better understand and meet the needs of clients from diverse cultures.” In the past, registered nurses returning to school often took three to four years to complete their degree on a part-time schedule. Scholarship recipients, instead, will be able to complete their work in three to four semesters thanks to the funding and the College’s accelerated program, according to Marylee Evans, of Richmond, URI assistant professor of nursing. “One of the reasons we believe students take so long to complete their degrees is because they are working full time,” Evans said. East Providence’s Paula Viau, who co-authored the grant application with Evans, added that many students would like to cut their work hours to earn their degrees, but can’t afford to. “Most of our students in the R.N. to bachelor’s program are in their 40s working full time and have competing family commitments,” she said. A recent URI survey found that most registered nurse students couldn’t attend the University full time because of financial constraints. The accelerated program for registered nurses has increased the College’s graduation rate from two to three in 1993, to an all-time high of 17 last year. Viau said there are more than 50 registered-nurse students pursuing bachelor’s degrees at URI. Seventeen percent are minorities. “We want to increase minority participation to approximately 24 percent, which would mimic our overall undergraduate minority population,” she said. URI’s College of Nursing plans to award 10 students, $5,000 scholarships from the grant. “These scholarships will provide one full year’s worth of study,” Evans said. Viau said in the recent past, registered nurses could look to employers such as hospitals, health care agencies, or clinics to assist them with continuing education, but in the changing world of health care, those sources have been diminished or eliminated and scholarship funding for returning registered nurses is not available. “This grant helps to support part of the faculty’s goal to diversify the faculty and student body,” said Joseph. -xxx- For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 874-2116