As the nursing shortage continues to pose a problem in the United States, Northern Arizona University is battling the issue by dramatically expanding the pipeline of students in accelerated nursing programs.

NAU is among the first institutions in the nation to receive funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to address the nation’s nursing shortage.

The School of Nursing was awarded 15 $10,000 scholarships to be used for student tuition, academic fees and living expenses for students enrolled in the Accelerated Nursing Program.

Through the foundation’s New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program, the scholarships will be distributed to entry-level nursing students in accelerated programs during the 2008-09 academic year. Award preference will be given to students from groups underrepresented in nursing or who are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The program is the most efficient way for adults to become licensed as registered nurses if they already have completed a baccalaureate or graduate degree in a discipline other than nursing.

“The accelerated nursing programs are an excellent way to increase the number of nurses in Arizona more quickly,” said Caroline Ellermann, assistant professor of nursing. “Students seeking second degrees have already shown they are talented and motivated to succeed.”

Ellermann explained that many potential students are unable to enroll in the Accelerated Nursing Program because already having a college degree disqualifies them for receiving most federal financial aid programs. The New Careers in Nursing scholarships addresses this problem.

“Scholarships for second degree students are critical to allow us to maintain our full teaching capacity in the program,” Ellermann said.

The program is an intensive year-round learning format, completed in 18 months of coursework and available for students who have completed a bachelor’s degree, met prerequisites and wish to become a registered nurse.

“This program aims to safeguard the health of the nation by helping to ease the nurse faculty shortage,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This new initiative also will advance our strategic goal of promoting leadership in the health professions.”