Palm Health Foundation Making College Possible for Health Professions Students Amidst Financial Woes

Foundation awards over $400,000 in scholarships for low-income and first-generation students striving to pursue nursing and behavioral health careers as economic challenges—and shortages—grow

West Palm Beach, FL – As college enrollments continue to drop across the nation, Palm Heath Foundation is easing financial burdens for students pursuing degrees in nursing and behavioral health at colleges and universities across South Florida. Over $400,000 in scholarships were awarded to 61 undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students, who shared stories of how the lingering economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic were thwarting dreams of careers in fields that are facing devastating shortages.

Many Palm Health Foundation scholarship recipients suffered financial losses during the pandemic due to job loss or reduced incomes. Hardships wiped out college savings in some cases, while others found it nearly impossible to return to intensive courses of study while having to work full time to make ends meet.

“We have to make it financially feasible for students who have a passion for health professions careers to graduate and join the fields that desperately need their services,” said Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of Palm Health Foundation. “At a time when many students may feel the need to postpone or drop out of their programs, we are providing the hope and stability to realize their dreams and support the health of Palm Beach County residents while relieving their financial debt.”

Palm Health Foundation’s nursing scholarship recipients range in degrees from licensed practical nurse to doctor of nursing practice, fulfilling shortages from bedside care to nursing education. Graduates are needed across the board short term and long term. According to a recent McKinsey survey, 29 percent of responding RNs in the United States indicated they were likely to leave their current role in direct patient care, with many respondents noting their intent to leave the workforce entirely. The same study cited that if no actions are taken, there will likely be more patients in the United States who will need care than nurses available to deliver it with a gap between 200,000 to 450,000 nationwide. What’s more, nursing faculty is on the decline, resulting in fewer slots for students.

The need for mental health professionals is also great. Data from Kaiser Family Foundation shows the current supply of Florida’s working mental health professionals meets only 19% of the state’s need. The pandemic caused an increase in anxiety, depression, and demand for services that continues. According to EAB, job postings for social workers reached an all-time high in February 2022 across the nation and employment is expected to grow 12% from 2020 to 2030 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Nursing and behavioral health shortages existed before the pandemic, and now have become more extreme,” said McNamara. “As a community foundation for health, we believe it our responsibility to strengthen the professions that are critically important to our system of care. We invite donors to join with us in leading change for better health.”

Palm Health Foundation has granted more than $3.5 million in nursing scholarships to over 1,000 nursing students for advanced education since its founding in 2001. The foundation partners with the George Snow Scholarship Fund to administer scholarships with funding provided through Pam Health Foundation’s Nursing Advancement Fund, a donation from Valley National Bank, and donor advised funds, including The Debra Coffman Howe Nursing Scholarship Fund, The B.J. and Paula Harris Scholarship Fund, The Andrew P. Barowsky Scholarship Fund, The Helen K. Persson Nursing Education Fund, The Sutton Kailey Nursing Advancement Fund, and The Joseph Dolce Surgical Nursing Scholarship Fund. The foundation’s behavioral health professions scholarship funding is provided by The Frances Fisher Scholarship Fund and The John T. Merrell Scholarship Fund.

Palm Health Foundation is recognized by nursing leaders and educators for its dedication to growing and strengthening the nursing workforce in Palm Beach County since its inception in 2001. In addition to nursing scholarships, the foundation has invested more than $10 million in initiatives to build a highly skilled nursing workforce that provides care across all settings and supports optimal health in the community including care transitions and care coordination. In the area of behavioral health, the foundation’s Brain Health Innovation Fund is dedicated to strengthening the local bonds between scientific research, community supports, and quality care to transform brain health in Palm Beach County.

About Palm Health Foundation 
Palm Health Foundation is Palm Beach County’s community foundation for health. With the support of donors and a focus on results, the foundation builds strong community partnerships, respects diverse opinions, advocates for its most vulnerable neighbors and inspires innovative solutions to lead change for better health now and for generations to come. The foundation supports health equity for Palm Beach County residents of all backgrounds, heritage, education, incomes and states of well-being. Palm Health Foundation has invested more than $89 million in Palm Beach County health since 2001. For more information about Palm Health Foundation, visit palmhealthfoundation.org or call (561) 833-6333.

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