Nursing Education: Who’s Funding It in Pennsylvania, and Why?

 photo:  Tyler Olson/shutterstock

photo:  Tyler Olson/shutterstock

A few months ago, we introduced you to the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, a health funder focused on Southeastern Pennsylvania. This foundation has made a commitment to addressing national issues affecting the local population, something that’s always nice to see. Two of these issues are heart disease and the opioid epidemic, both of which are taking their toll on the Greater Philadelphia area.

But while the IBC Foundation created two brand-new initiatives to tackle these specific problems, they aren’t the only things the funder has been interested in, lately.  Recently, the Philadelphia-based funder announced $1.7 million toward nursing education and community health and wellness grants.  

Nurse education grants are part of the funder’s Bolstering the Health Care Workforce program, and it awarded 21 new grants in this category. The money largelyfunds scholarships for undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate nursing students. Nursing schools are the grant recipients, here, including one first-time grantee, Penn State Abington. Overall, IBC has given out almost $9 million for nursing scholarships.

This is a key time for nursing education support, considering the national shortage of registered nurses. The situation is worse in Pennsylvania than in other places. Meanwhile, nursing schools are struggling because educators are reaching retirement age and positions remain unfilled. IBC is one of the rare funders going all-in on nursing education by funding education grants, an internship program, and continuing education workshops for established nurses.  

Meanwhile, Building Healthier Communities is an IBC Foundation grant program aimed at improving the health of over 10,000 residents in Southeast Pennsylvania. Sixteen organizations were supported by IBC in the most recent round of giving, including the Fund for Philadelphia, the Center for Grieving Children, Good Samaritan Shelter, Meals on Wheels of Chester County and Philabundance. In an effort to support diversity and underserved populations, IBC funded the Bhutanese American Organization, the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Jewish Relief Agency, and the Supportive Older Women’s Network.

Building Healthier Communities grants are restricted to programs that benefit the five-county region of Southeast Pennsylvania. Requests up to $25,000 are considered, but priority is given to groups asking for less than $10,000.

But aside from its rare and refreshing passion for nursing education, what’s really impressive about this foundation is that it’s only been around for five years. While many other Blue Cross and Blue Shield-affiliated foundations have been awarding grants for a decade or two, this one has quickly caught up and plowed full-steam ahead.

We’re not sure how much (if at all) the various Blue Cross foundations interact or model each other, but this one has hit the ground running with bold initiatives that get to the heart of local health concerns. Other IBC areas of interest include childhood obesity and building health center capacity to improve affordability and competency.

Related: How the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Approaches Health Grantmaking