issue Spring 2023

Grainger Foundation Supports “Bold Vision” For Nursing

By Judy Masterson and Amy Knutson Strack

RFU and Lake Forest College received a $1 million gift in early 2023 from The Grainger Foundation to support scholarships for RFU’s novel Nursing Education to Workforce (NEW) Pathway Program. The multiyear scholarships provide transformational opportunities for eligible students from underserved areas in Lake County who want to return post-graduation to their local communities to practice. The Grainger Foundation joins a host of dedicated organizations — including the Dr. Scholl Foundation, John and Kathleen Schreiber Foundation, Washington Square Health Foundation and an anonymous donor — partnering with RFU to build a nursing workforce in the region and strengthen health care in communities.

“The need for high-quality education provided in the student’s local environment is urgent.”

“We’re responding to a tremendous community need with a bold vision supported by strategic partners who share our desire to address inequities in our region,” said RFU President and CEO Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM. “Together, we’re expanding access to education to graduate highly-trained nurses whose understanding of the communities they serve can help build trust in health care.”

At least 10 recipients will receive an annual scholarship up to $20,000 over the course of the accelerated 3+2-year program, in which students earn a bachelor’s degree from Lake Forest College in a non-nursing field and a Master of Science in Nursing for Entry into Nursing Practice degree from RFU.

Lake Forest College President Jill M. Baren, MD, praised the focus on increasing educational attainment for area students, adding that “the need for high-quality education provided in the student’s local environment is urgent.”

Data from Lake County Partners, which is focused on economic development in Lake County, shows that 300 nursing positions went unfilled in the county before 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and an aging workforce are accelerating that shortage.

Sandra Larson, PhD, CRNA, APRN, FAANA, FNAP, founding dean of RFU’s College of Nursing, said today’s nursing workforce requires knowledge in 10 domains of nursing practice, including healthcare information systems and technologies, established and emerging principles of quality and safety, as well as knowledge from other disciplines.

The donation recognizes innovative community partnerships that tackle complex issues of health equity, nursing education and workforce barriers.

“It is with pleasure that we support Lake Forest College and Rosalind Franklin University’s efforts regarding this unique and important program addressing the critical healthcare needs of Lake County and our surrounding communities,” said J.L. Howard, chairman of The Grainger Foundation.