At the Cleveland Clinic, Addressing Nursing Shortages and Health Disparities Begins in High School
- The Howley ASPIRE Nurse Scholars Program is a 12-week enrichment program for high school juniors interested in pursuing a nursing career.
- Selected high school students are provided with a direct pathway to becoming registered nurses, earning a scholarship to Ursuline College to obtain their BSN degrees. Students work as patient care technicians and can obtain nursing positions within the Cleveland Clinic system after graduation.
- The ASPIRE program aims to increase diversity in healthcare, address career opportunity gaps, and reduce community health disparities.
According to the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA), nurses in Ohio are leaving the bedside in droves because of unsafe working conditions and short staffing, among other reasons. In fact, the situation is reportedly so dire that the ONA has issued a “Code Red” initiative, in which it plans to hold healthcare employers accountable for putting nurses in unsafe staffing conditions.
The nursing shortage is a nationwide problem with no end in sight. But what if Ohio’s nursing shortage could be improved by providing high school students with the opportunity to explore the nursing profession and obtain a college scholarship?
The Cleveland Clinic is exploring just that.
The Howley ASPIRE Nurse Scholars Program sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic allows a select group of local high school students to learn more about the nursing profession and even earn a scholarship to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. And now, thanks to a $12 million gift from The Howley Foundation, a philanthropic group, the program will double its number of nurse scholars beginning this fall.
“We remain committed to cultivating a workplace that embraces diversity, inclusion and equity to better serve our patients,” said Kelly Hancock, DNP, Cleveland Clinic's Chief Caregiver Officer. “The Howley ASPIRE Program serves as a key element in supporting these efforts. This generous gift allows us to offer this wonderful opportunity to more nurse scholars in Northeast Ohio and increases public awareness about the vital role our nurses have in delivering high-quality healthcare.”
How the Program Works
The Howley ASPIRE Nurse Scholars Program is a 12-week program for high school juniors interested in pursuing a nursing career. Sessions are conducted every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Students must attend all 12 sessions to successfully complete the program. Meals and transportation are provided to the students for the duration of the program.
Students are selected based on a combination of extracurricular experiences, attributes, and academic metrics. They must also fulfill certain eligibility requirements, including meeting at least two of the following three criteria:
- Be from an underrepresented group in nursing
- Be the first generation in their family to graduate from a four-year accredited college or university
- Demonstrate financial need
The program is designed to provide students with nursing career information and opportunities to strengthen their skill sets. According to the Cleveland Clinic, students receive instruction on a wide variety of nursing-related topics during their time in the program, including:
- Profession of Nursing
- Relationship Based Care
- Personal Brand
- Simulation Skills Lab Experience
- Health Literacy/Health Care Disparities
- CPR Certification
- Shadow Experience
- Healthcare & Technology
- Diversity & Cultural Competence
- Nursing and the Community
- Research and Evidenced Based Practice
- Professional Communication/Presentation Skills
Students receive a $500 stipend upon successful completion of the program. Select students are invited to return for a second year as senior mentors to build upon the foundational skills and concepts learned during the previous year.
The program focuses on providing high school students with a direct pathway to becoming registered nurses (RNs). In collaboration with Ursuline College Breen School of Nursing, returning seniors have the opportunity to earn a scholarship to complete their BSN degree. Students obtain further patient care experience by working as patient care technicians at Cleveland Clinic during the summer after high school graduation and throughout nursing school. After graduating with their BSN and obtaining RN licensure, students are offered nursing positions at Cleveland Clinic.
The ASPIRE program launched in 2017 and has been sustained through several sizable donations. One of the largest donors is The Howley Foundation, led by Lorie and Nick Howley, which has committed over $20 million to the program. Their generosity prompted Cleveland Clinic to rename the ASPIRE program in The Howley Foundation’s honor.
“We feel strongly that a quality education is the best way to address social inequality and promote economic mobility,” said Nick Howley, chairman of The Howley Foundation. “We want students to be able to complete their nursing degrees poised for success.”
Applications for the next cohort of ASPIRE Nurse Scholars are accepted through October 1.
The Importance of the ASPIRE Program
In the past, the Howley ASPIRE Nurse Scholars Program selected up to 25 students for the junior cohort. However, the recent gift from the Howley Foundation will allow the program to double the number of accepted students in the coming years.
Recently, the program celebrated its first five nursing school graduates now employed as full-time RNs at the Cleveland Clinic. An additional 15 nursing students are expected to graduate from Ursuline College by 2024. These steps will gradually broaden the region’s nursing education pipeline, funneling more nurses into Ohio to help address the nursing shortage, officials said.
“We remain committed to cultivating a workplace that embraces diversity, inclusion and equity to better serve our patients,” said Hancock. “The Howley ASPIRE Program serves as a key element in supporting these efforts. This generous gift allows us to offer this wonderful opportunity to more nurse scholars in Northeast Ohio and increases public awareness about the vital role our nurses have in delivering high-quality healthcare.”
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