DaVita Giving Foundation Invests $1 Million in Western Governors University to Support Nursing Students

 The DaVita Giving Foundation has awarded Western Governors University’s (WGU) Michael O. Leavitt School of Health (LSH) a $1 million grant over the next three years to support more than 1,500 nursing students in Start Early, a program co-created by DaVita Inc. and WGU to help increase nursing degree completion at the university nationwide.

Approximately 100,000 registered nurses left the workforce from 2020-2022, and another 610,000 RNs have expressed an “intent to leave” by 2027 due to stress, burnout and retirement. The investment in Start Early will help the next generation of nurses to be supported from the onset of their careers while still in school through targeted assistance. 

The WGU Start Early program will provide resources for nursing students who demonstrate financial barriers to their education and will support their efforts to complete their nursing degree. These resources include approximately $400,000 for prelicensure scholarship support, approximately $360,000 for prelicensure non-tuition support (for example, childcare costs and scrubs) and approximately $240,000 for non-tuition wrap-around costs (for example, out-of-pocket travel expenses associated with students’ mandatory attendance at clinical simulation learning labs). Scholarship applications will open January 15.

Additionally, through the funding from the DaVita Giving Foundation, up to 80 students annually will receive critical, need-based scholarships to help them afford their education. These scholarships will be focused on underserved student populations in the following cities and counties:   

  • Kansas City, Missouri – Jackson, Clay, Cass and Platte counties. 
  • Texoma (region in Texas and Oklahoma) – Bryan, Carter, Johnston, Love and Marshall counties (Oklahoma) and Cooke, Fannin and Grayson counties (Texas). 
  • Charlotte, North Carolina – Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Union counties.

Underserved student populations include students of color, students with comparatively lower incomes, students in geographically remote areas and/or students who are the first in their families to attend a university.

“Working alongside WGU to create the Start Early program and help remove financial barriers for students pursuing a future in nursing is such important work as the U.S. experiences a critical shortage of this vital workforce,” says Tina Livaudais, chief nursing officer for DaVita. “In 2021 alone, WGU produced 17% of the nation’s registered nurses earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing – and if the investment from the DaVita Giving Foundation helps more students earn their degree, then it’s an investment really well-spent.”

Funds will support the WGU Leavitt School of Health’s Prelicensure program, which is uniquely positioned to help alleviate pressures on the nursing workforce shortage while working toward making the health care system more equitable. The program is expected to help fill workforce shortages nationwide through the education of more than 13,000 students and approximately 4,800 new qualified nurse graduates by 2027.

“We thank the DaVita Giving Foundation for its support as we broaden access to our high-quality nursing programs to yield skilled and compassionate graduates to tackle the nursing shortage in the country,” said Keith Smith, senior vice president, Leavitt School of Health, WGU. “Enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the health and higher education sectors to create more pathways to opportunity is a prime goal of the Leavitt School of Health, and this grant certainly helps us take a step forward in the direction to achieving our goal.”

In selecting grant recipients, the DaVita Giving Foundation is committed to engaging with local and global communities. Specifically, it seeks to create pathways to health care with nurses and patient care technicians as well as early childhood education.

Within the broader organization, DaVita Kidney Care is working to help close the nursing workforce shortage via a three-pronged strategy. First, DaVita is offering a nephrology specialty nursing school curriculum to universities at no cost to them. Second, students participating in the curriculum join clinical internships that provide an immersive experience working alongside DaVita caregivers. Third, DaVita has a residency program to help newly hired nurses feel supported and properly trained during their first year at DaVita.

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