The Student Emergency Support Fund established by the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has distributed $6,600 in emergency aid to students in need and will distribute another $11,000 this fall and winter.
In 2018, the college started a fund-raising campaign to formalize a means to help students cope with unforeseen financial needs that threatened to derail their studies. Within six months, the college raised more than $25,000, with 96 percent of the faculty and staff participating, to establish an endowed Student Emergency Support Fund.
“It’s been a collective effort from the beginning to make sure that students have what they need,” said Glynis Blackard, PhD, RN, MSN, assistant dean for Student Affairs. Dr. Blackard oversees student requests and distribution of the emergency funds. “It was really a whole-college effort to make this happen.”
Last fall, students were able to apply for emergency help for the first time. The coronavirus pandemic has greatly increased requests.
“In April, of course, we began to hear stories of students really struggling with the ability to meet their financial needs in the community, and the stories were varied,” Dr. Blackard said. The first round of emergency help, $ 6,100 total, went to 16 students in late May to help with needs from housing assistance, to food insecurity, to health care issues. So far, a total of more than $6,600 has been given out over the spring and summer to 17 students, with more than $11,000 to distribute when applications open again in September.
“When we established this fund in 2018, we wanted to be sure we had the assistance that students may need when unforeseen things happen financially, so that they would not prevent our students from being able to complete their nursing program,” said Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-Bc, FAANP, dean of the UTHSC College of Nursing. “Of course, we had no idea that COVID-19 was going to occur and create an exponential need for our students.”
The funds are a gift. “It is a fund that the students do not have to pay back,” Dr. Blackard said. They are, however, encouraged to contribute to the fund once they graduate, are working, and can help other students in need.
Faculty and staff of the college continue to give to the fund, as has the Nursing Student Government Association, which recently collected $1,000 to help their peers.
“We’ve been in a nursing shortage for a long time, but the current pandemic situation has escalated the needs,” Dr. Blackard said. “So, it is important that we do all we can to support our accelerated BSN students and DNPs through their programs to ensure they enter the profession in their new roles, where they can help to impact and change lives.”