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Monday, Oct 25, 2021

Ballad Health, ETSU Combine to Create Appalachian Highlands Center for Nursing Advancement

As pandemic exacerbates underlying national shortage of nurses and other nursing supports, partnership seeks long-term solution to bolster nursing supply and support

Ballad Health announced today it has committed a $10 million investment to create the Appalachian Highlands Center for Nursing Advancement at East Tennessee State University.

The Center will be dedicated to bringing nursing, business, liberal arts, education and other academic and support programs together to increase the pipeline of opportunity and augment the supply of nurses and nursing support in the Appalachian Highlands.

The Center will develop partnerships with other colleges and universities, such as Emory & Henry College, Milligan University, Northeast State Community College, Tusculum University and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, among others, to advance the clinical practice of nursing, enhance interprofessional collaboration, contribute to knowledge about nursing workflow and generate nursing scholarship and innovation.

Even prior to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the nation faced a shortage of nurses, with more than 1 million nurses expected to retire before 2030, according to a study published in Medical Care. Combining this with the historically high acuity of hospitalized patients creates a high-stress situation for practicing nurses, leading to burnout and higher turnover rates.

“As the largest nursing program in the state of Tennessee and as an institution whose mission is to improve the lives of the people of our region, we are excited about the opportunity Ballad Health has created to increase this vital pipeline of nurses, while also seeking to provide support and ongoing enhancement of our existing workforce,” said ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland. “ETSU is poised to continue to meet the challenge of the nursing shortage through the Center for Nursing Advancement, which will be rooted in our strong service, teaching and research missions.”

The Appalachian Highlands Center for Nursing Advancement will focus on data and research, collaboration with key stakeholders across the region and advocacy to promote the nursing profession.

“Our nurses and their direct support teams, such as certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and the other allied health professionals who care directly for patients are the heart of the healthcare team,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “The dynamics of the nursing profession have changed so much, becoming even more complex because of the challenges of the pandemic. We now seek to learn from our nurses what we need to do to evolve to better support the needs of our nursing teams and enhance their resilience in a very difficult environment, and partnerships with these regional institutions of higher education within the Appalachian Highlands are just the beginning of this collaborative effort to invest in healthcare workforce development.”

Not only will the Center work with current nurses and nursing students, but it will also seek to attract more students to the nursing profession. The Center will partner with other institutions to develop a common pipeline for high school students to identify those with aptitudes for the sciences and help match them with employment and pathways to certification as a nursing support professional or for a nursing degree. These programs could match students with jobs within Ballad Health while they’re in high school, which provide a path to certification by their high school graduations, linking them with the possibility of scholarships for nursing degrees, as well as employment opportunities within Ballad Health.

“Inspiring and educating the next generation of nurses and nurse educators is perhaps more important now than it has ever been,” said Dr. Leann Horsley, dean of ETSU’s College of Nursing. “The Appalachian Highlands Center for Nursing Advancement will be critical to laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s nursing workforce in our region and ensuring that not only do we overcome the challenges of the pandemic, but that we also are proactive in creating a resilient and well-prepared workforce that can meet the future needs of our region as it grows.”

“The last year and a half have brought tremendous attention to the field of nursing and our nursing professionals, and with that, wider recognition of the long-looming national nursing shortage,” said Dr. Lisa Smithgall, Ballad Health’s chief nursing executive. “Just as it’s taken a community effort to address and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s going to take a wide-reaching effort to overcome this shortage in frontline caregivers and develop a robust, farsighted effort to build out the nursing workforce for the coming generations.”

Support from throughout the region and State of Tennessee

The announcement of the creation of the Center has drawn support from throughout the Appalachian Highlands and in Nashville.

“The nation is facing a labor shortage with profound impacts on health care,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. “Ballad Health is investing into East Tennessee State University to develop the Appalachian Highlands Center for Nursing Advancement which will not only serve the needs of the Appalachian Highland region, but the entire state. My administration looks forward to working with Ballad Health and ETSU as they build solutions to the national nursing shortage.”

“Milligan University has long been a reliable provider of allied health and nursing professionals to the region, and we are enthusiastic about participating with ETSU and our other colleagues throughout the region to contribute to the goals of the Center,” said Dr. Bill Greer, president of Milligan University.

“The University of Virginia’s College at Wise values our partnership with Ballad Health and our colleague institutions, as we all have worked together to provide solutions for the Appalachian Highlands,” said Dr. Donna Henry, chancellor of UVA Wise. “We look forward to being a part of the Center and to contributing to the growth and enhancement of the nursing profession as we seek to grow our own programs.”

“Emory and Henry College has been the beneficiary of the generosity of Ballad Health in the past, resulting in a fantastic allied health program infrastructure, and we are excited about this next major investment Ballad Health is making in advancing nursing as a profession,” said Dr. John Wells, president of Emory and Henry College.

“Our nursing students and alumni have made a profound difference in patients and the region’s health thanks, in large measure, to a long and productive relationship with Ballad Health,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum University’s president. “Tusculum is proud to serve the Appalachian Highlands, and we are excited about partnering with Ballad Health and other higher education institutions through this collaborative approach to assist the nursing profession in the region.”

“We are excited to be part of a robust nursing pipeline in our community,” said Dr. Bethany Bullock, president of Northeast State Community College. “At Northeast State, we are committed to working alongside our academic partners and Ballad Health to increase and enhance the health care workforce in the Appalachian Highlands.”

Learn more about the ETSU College of Nursing.

Find open nursing jobs at Ballad Health Careers.