UA Little Rock / Saline Health System Pathway program to address nursing shortage

Saline Health System and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock have joined forces to address the nursing shortage in Saline County by creating scholarship opportunities for more students who want to enter the field of nursing.

On July 17, leaders at the two institutions announced a two-year initiative — the UA Little Rock/Saline Health System Pathway Program — designed to fill nursing staffing needs at Saline Memorial Hospital.

Under the agreement, UA Little Rock will recruit and educate 20 students for the Pathways Program in a two-year associate of applied science degree program. After completing the program, students will be prepared to obtain their RN licensure and begin a career at Saline Memorial Hospital.

Saline Health System and UA Little Rock will award $5,000 per student over the course of the four-semester Associate of Applied Science-RN program. The award will be structured as a loan and subject to forgiveness on a monthly basis as long as the graduate remains employed by Saline Memorial Hospital for at least 24 months after graduation from UA Little Rock.

“Saline Health System is excited to welcome our first group of Pathway Program nurses,” said Ashley Johnson, chief operating officer at Saline Health System. “We are fortunate to be able to invest in nurses who are committed to Saline Health System’s values and look forward to retaining qualified nurses to serve Saline County residents for years to come.”

The 20 students will enter the Saline Pathway Program this fall.

UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson said the collaboration with Saline Health System is an excellent example of the way the university partners with businesses to meet needs of central Arkansas.

“Our pledge to central Arkansas and the entire state is to help address and solve the challenges our businesses and organizations face through educational opportunities,” he said. “This partnership with Saline Health System is yet another example of the partnerships we have formed to give students a pathway to a quality, affordable education.”

Earlier this year, the university extended its commitment to Saline County by announcing four new degree programs that will be offered on the UA Little Benton campus this fall.

The nursing students will complete 27 to 31 credit hours of general education courses, which they can take at the UA Little Rock Benton campus, main campus or online. In addition, they will take 34 nursing course credits. Clinicals will be taught at Saline Memorial Hospital.

“The UA Little Rock Department of Nursing is very excited about this new opportunity our nursing students will have to partner with Saline Health System,” said Sloane Davidson, chair of nursing at UA Little Rock. “We have a long-standing, positive relationship with Saline Memorial that will only be enhanced by this new option they are generously offering. This loan program will help students with financial need be able to complete nursing school with less debt and have a guaranteed nursing position upon graduation.”

The program comes at a time when the employment rate for registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more nurses are needed because of an increased emphasis on preventive care; growing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity; and demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom population, as they live longer and more active lives.

Saline Health System incorporates Saline Memorial Hospital, a 16-bed inpatient Hospice House as well as multiple specialty clinics throughout Central Arkansas. Saline Health System is a full-service health care facility that has served Saline County and the surrounding areas for more than 65 years. With locations in Benton and Bryant, Arkansas, Saline Health System serves the community as a comprehensive medical center offering a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services including behavioral health, urology, cardiology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, sleep disorders, wound care and much more.

 UA Little Rock nursing faculty and students celebrate the announcement of the UA Little Rock/Saline Health System Pathway Program at a news conference July 17 at Saline Memorial Hospital.

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