Providing opportunities for the talent that is already present is the way the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Foundation intends to solve a significant problem in rural healthcare through their scholarship program.
“In North Carolina by the year 2025 we’ll have the second largest nursing shortage in the country,” said hospital CEO Paul Hammes to the foundation board at the regular May meeting.
That statistic applies to the state, not to the specific shortage described by Hammes as he outlined numbers from a recent study from the University of North Carolina showing where a specific group of students were observed five years after attending medical school in the state.
“Those in rural North Carolina from that original number [of 408] is only 10,” said Hammes, who was hopeful in spite of the urgent need.
“Hugh Chatham is listed as one of the 25 finalists in the Best Places to Work competition that the Triad Business Journal has each year and we are really pleased just to be a finalist. It’s very reflective of the overall sentiment of our employees in terms of are they valued, do they have a voice, how are the benefits, do they get to do fun things, do they feel fulfilled.
“We’re doing a lot of things right here at Hugh Chatham and I think that we have the right people here on our team, not just the right number, the right people here on our team to care for your needs in the future,” he said.
Those people are being helped by the scholarship program not only as high school students who hope to enter the field, but those who already work at HCMH who would like to continue their training.
“We do know that often times positions begin in other types of clinical roles and they become inspired and want to go to medical school. They all start in different places,” said Hammes, “some of them as nurses, some of them in other roles.”
“That’s our next stage,” said Tony Cook, chair of the HCMH Foundation scholarship committee, explaining they will begin immediately looking at the applications for the internal scholarships.
“It’s professional advancement that will just consider employees that are already here. We’ve gotten a few applications and we’re going to have a meeting soon to work with them and see who they recommend for more training, more education and that we feel like we can help,” said Cook.
“That’s the next step. I wish we could have a little time off, but it looks like we’ll go right into that and that’s going to take a few weeks to, but I’m sure the committee’s up to that.”
The reason Cook and the committee would like a break is because they recently read 71 applications from students wishing to enter the medical field.
“I would’ve been happy with 40,” said Cook, noting that of those 71 received 65 would have been appropriate recipients.
“There wasn’t anything wrong with the other ones they just weren’t fully convincing that they were going into the medical field or that they would return here,” said Cook, “and the two biggest stipulations that we have, of course, were that they were going to stay in the medical field and that we felt like we had a chance that they may want to come back here.”
These conditions were rewarded in six students across four high schools and one community college.
In addition to donors helping review applications to receive their specific scholarship, they also helped present the awards, including newest donors, Gray and Debbie Brown.
“We thought about doing a scholarship for some time and it’s nice to have somebody actually facilitate that,” said Debbie.
“We’ve been a supporter of the hospital and of the school system for a very long time and so this is a good way to combine that support of both entities. It’s a good way to make a long-time support of the hospital — to establish something that’s going to be giving for a very, very long time.”
Also recently providing a significant donation to the scholarship fund was Gilmer and Bettie Hinson.
“The generous gift from the Hinsons was given in loving memory of their daughters,” said Patricia Wagoner, executive secretary for the foundation board. “They will make a difference in someone who chooses healthcare as their career.”
“This goes back to attracting the right people here to Elkin to Hugh Chatham as we grow our system to care for you and your loved ones,” said Hammes. “We are attractive because of the quality of care that we provide, because of the type of reputation that we have, and the resources that we have to invest in growing caregivers for a future. That really specifically leads into the scholarship program.
“It is already making a difference and I can’t think of anything more important to delivering great care than to have the right people and I can’t think of anything more important in terms of getting people than to grow our own people and to develop them and bring them on board early.
“I just want to thank you so much for your support of this program,” said Hammes. “We need it. We need it badly.”
Contributions to the Hugh Chatham Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made by calling 336-527-7457.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.