From staff reports
The nursing shortage in Beaufort County is critical and only expected to get worse in the near future. A new scholarship program aims to address this crisis.
The South Carolina Nurse Retention Scholarship (SCNRS) is a new and unique program designed to attract and retain nurses who continue to work in Beaufort County. A charitable fund has been established through the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to provide funds to eligible candidates.
The need for nurses in Beaufort County is critical and expected to grow. By 2030, the number of registered nurses needed in the United States is estimated to increase by 28.4 percent, from 2.8 million to 3.6 million. By that point, South Carolina is expected to have the fourth largest nursing shortage in the nation.
Currently, South Carolina has the poorest ratio of nurses to the population at 7.9 per 1000, while the national average is 12.5. Both South Carolina and Beaufort County are Health Professional Shortage areas for primary care nursing.
USC Beaufort has a robust nursing program, graduating about 40 students each year. On average, nursing students graduate with $22,000 in student loan debt. Combining this with the fact that salaries for new nurses are up to $6,000 per year higher outside of South Carolina, many qualified nurses are leaving the area.
To close this gap, the SCNRS aims to provide an additional $6,000 per year in the form of direct payments to new BSN graduates who can demonstrate that they are providing direct patient care in Beaufort County. Recipients will be selected based on merit and demonstrated financial need, with special consideration given to marginalized or underserved populations.
Nurses would receive a payment of $3,000 after each confirmed six-month period of local employment in an approved setting. The scholarship is renewable for up to four years.
The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has generously provided the initial funds to build the program’s infrastructure and launch the program in Beaufort County.
SCNRS’ goal is to grow and eventually expand the program statewide. They expect to offer four scholarships this year with initial funds provided by generous donations from individuals within the community, including the founders of the initiative, Dr. William Fuller and Robert Elliott, each pledging to provide full support for a candidate.
By 2022, SCNRS hopes to provide 10 more annual scholarships, with an endowment fund created to sustain the program. SCNRS has a fundraising committee reaching out to individuals, businesses, and other stakeholders, asking for support to sponsor a candidate for up to four years.
“Nurses are the beating heart of our healthcare system.” according to Robert Elliott. “Our goal is to keep our best and brightest here, at home. We need more qualified nurses in Beaufort County.”
For additional information about the scholarship or where to donate, visit the SCNRS website at www.scnurseretention.org.