LewisGale addressing nursing shortage in Southwest Virginia

‘All health systems are struggling’

SALEM, Va. – On a patient’s worst day, nurses like Helena Tilley are right by their side.

“Being there for them and being somebody they can rely on,” said Tilley, the director of pulmonary, renal, and oncology medical surgery units.

But nowadays, it’s getting harder to find people willing to take on the role. A nursing shortage is affecting LewisGale and hospitals across the country. Nationwide, research shows the country could see a shortage of up to 450,000 nurses if health care leaders and federal officials don’t take any action.

“We have had to get incredibly creative and innovative on how to staff our hospitals,” said Amy woods, the chief nursing officer at LewisGale Medical Center in Salem.

Aging nurses nearing retirement age, the stress of working during the pandemic, and the rise of high-paying travel nursing jobs are all factors.

Nurses say the shortage starts in the classroom, which is why LewisGale is partnering with Galen College of Nursing.

“How do we entice the younger generations to want to be nurses?” said Woods. “It starts at a very early age.”

Still, staffing academic settings is a challenge too. Putting a nurse in a classroom, means taking one out of a hospital.

Another new initiative is that HCA Virginia, LewisGale’s parent company, is offering $800,000 in scholarships for new or current employees to pursue nursing careers at its southwest Virginia facilities including LewisGale Medical Center, LewisGale Hospital Alleghany, LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, and LewisGale Hospital Pulaski, as well as their central Virginia and New Hampshire hospitals. The funds will support the path to becoming a licensed practical/vocational nurse or a registered nurse within HCA Healthcare.

The scholarships are eligible for nursing students who are currently enrolled in a Board of Nursing-accredited program. The LPN/LVN scholarships are $7,000 per student and the RN scholarships are $14,000. There is a one-year full-time employment commitment in an HCA Healthcare facility upon completion. Candidates are also eligible for sign-on bonuses at the time of hire.

“This scholarship money is a huge encouragement,” said Woods.

Tilley says it’s a career worth pursuing.

″It’s a rewarding field. Not only are you helping somebody in the most difficult time in their life, potentially,” said Tilley. “There’s opportunity for education. There’s opportunity for growth.”

If you’re interested in a career in nursing with LewisGale, click here.

About the Author

You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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