Winter Haven Hospital Supports Local Nursing Schools and Provides Employee Scholarships for Continuing Education
In 2011, the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation pledged $400,000 to Polk State College (PSC) to create a new local nursing school faculty position. Over the past decade, the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation has contributed approximately $1 million to educating future health care professionals. The new PSC faculty member will play a signiﬁcant role in administering the college’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program. The position will also assist with nursing activities at Winter Haven Hospital that will beneﬁt patients, staﬀ and nursing students.
Although the hospital’s support for the nursing position at PSC is new, supporting local health care education is nothing new to the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation. In the late 1990’s Winter Haven Hospital was challenged with a diminishing supply of registered nurses, facing a shortage of newly graduating nurses combined with a growing number of retiring older nurses. The hospital’s Foundation Board recognized the importance of investing in nurse education, and the positive impact that local nurse education would have on overall local quality of life. The Foundation’s solution to this challenge was to partner with several other local organizations to oﬀer full scholarships for nursing school tuition, books and supplies. The investment resulted in nursing applications tripling, which led to nearly triple the number of nursing graduates several years later.
The approach was so successful that the Winter Haven Hospital has begun partnering with other colleges and universities to implement a similar method for other career paths, such as radiologic technology. The hospital’s Foundation also encourages existing Winter Haven Hospital nurses to seek additional education, such as a two-year registered nurse (RN) earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or a BSN earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The Foundation has applied the same opportunity to other professions as well, including clinical and business-related degrees. Approximately $50,000 in scholarships is available for Winter Haven Hospital employees every year.
In addition to supporting existing employees and helping expand local college programs, the Winter Haven Hospital Auxiliary, working through the hospital’s Foundation, oﬀers scholarships for local high school students that have expressed an interest in going to college and developing a career in health care. For the past ten years, the Auxiliary has oﬀered approximately $10,000 in scholarships annually.
Scholarships for existing and potential future hospital employees are supplemented through a unique and powerful partnership with a family committed to health care education in Winter Haven. Jack and Frances Rynerson have been pioneers in encouraging nursing education, beginning when the family established the Rynerson Family Nursing Scholarship in honor of Jack’s father. As Winter Haven Hospital’s scholarship and college support has evolved, the Foundation’s Rynerson Family Nursing Scholarship Fund helps students that already have full tuition scholarships, but have life circumstances such that they have an economic need above and beyond tuition assistance. This unique scholarship has a powerful impact on students and their families, and is an opportunity for philanthropic leaders like the Rynerson family to impact individual lives and the future of the Winter Haven community.
When asked about the new pledge supporting an additional faculty position at Polk State College, Eric Adamson, Chairman of the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, said: “The Foundation has made this investment for multiple reasons. First, we see the need to train future nurses for our community. Second, we see it as an opportunity for nursing graduates to pursue their careers at Winter Haven Hospital. Third, we’ve seen results by partnering with Polk State College. We are pleased to make this investment in our community because we are conﬁdent it is going to pay oﬀ in the long run.”
Winter Haven Hospital Foundation Executive Joel Thomas said: “The Foundation’s Board of Trustees is dedicated to working with regional philanthropic leaders who are interested in advancing excellence in health care for the Central Florida community. This initiative is an example of the Foundation’s ‘mission in action.’ Few things are more rewarding than to make a long-term investment in the place where you work and live and to see that investment reap dividends. This newest funding brings the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation’s total support for the Polk State College nursing program to more than $800,000. We believe our community and our organization will beneﬁt for years to come as a result of this investment.”
“Few things are more rewarding than to make a long-term investment in the place where you work and live and to see that investment reap dividends. This newest funding brings the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation’s total support for the Polk State College nursing program to more than $800,000. We believe our community and our organization will beneﬁt for years to come as a result of this investment.”
– Joel Thomas, Winter Haven Hospital Foundation Executive