West Virginia celebrates nursing scholars, highlights nursing workforce growth during National Nurses Week
CHARLESTON, WV – West Virginia’s higher education office is celebrating nursing scholarship recipients, education opportunities and recent workforce growth during National Nurses Week, which runs through Friday, May 12, 2023.
The West Virginia Nursing Scholarship Program, which provides awards to Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN), Registered Nursing (RN), graduate and LPN teaching certificate students in exchange for service in West Virginia, is accepting applications until June 1 for the 2023-24 academic year. The program is administered by the West Virginia Center for Nursing in conjunction with the Higher Education Policy Commission.
“I am grateful for the West Virginia Nursing Scholarship Program and the opportunities that the scholarship gave me,” said Nursing Scholarship recipient Esther Moore, an RN who graduated with her associate degree from BridgeValley Community and Technical College in 2022. “Like many West Virginians, I had to work during college to pay rent and all my bills. My family was very supportive, but they were unable to assist me financially. The Nursing Scholarship relieved so much financial stress for me, and allowed me to focus on studying.”
To qualify for a scholarship, a nursing student must be a West Virginia resident, enrolled in an accredited West Virginia nursing program, and meet specific GPA requirements. Prior to being awarded, RN and LPN students also must be at least halfway through their nursing degree program. Students who anticipate meeting this nursing midpoint date during the academic year are encouraged to apply. All recipients must agree to fulfill an in-state service obligation, which varies based on the type of nursing.
“I was able to concentrate on my studies rather than working to make ends meet,” said Nursing Scholarship recipient Caitlyn Johnson, an RN who graduated from West Liberty University with her bachelor’s degree in 2022. “I was always planning on staying in West Virginia, so the scholarship was an added bonus for me.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating West Virginia’s nursing shortage, Gov. Justice launched a $48 million Nursing Workforce Expansion Program in December 2021 through a multi-pronged approach to support, recruit, and train nurses. This included $26 million to further develop nursing education programs, through which West Virginia welcomed 810 new nursing students during the first year of the program, and full funding of the West Virginia Nursing Scholarship Program. Gov. Justice recently announced the continuation of this expansion initiative through $20 million that was approved in this year’s state budget.
According to recent data from the Center for Nursing, there has been a steady increase in the number of RNs working in the state, as well as an increase in younger nurses working in West Virginia. The number of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) licensed and working in the state increased by nearly 6 percent between 2021 and 2022, while the number of RNs increased by nearly 1.5 percent. Millennials and Generation X both made up the largest share of the workforce in 2022, accounting for more than 70 percent of licensees working in West Virginia.
“Thanks to smart investments by Gov. Justice and the Legislature, we are more strongly positioned than ever before to grow our nursing workforce,” said Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education. “We’re seeing early, steady growth in the number of nurses working in our state, and we’ll continue working to make new educational opportunities available to those who want to pursue these rewarding careers.”