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Steve and Amy Van Andel Foundation scholarship gift expands career opportunities while filling critical need for nurses

The pipeline of local nursing talent just got a much-needed boost from the Steve and Amy Van Andel Foundation, with a gift to a UM Health-West program that removes cost barriers for aspiring nurses and gives them a head start on their healthcare careers.

The foundation’s gift will officially launch an innovative scholarship partnership that combines tuition support with paid on-the-job professional experience. The scholarship program will be named “The Amy Van Andel Nursing Scholars Program” in honor of Steve and Amy’s generosity and Amy’s passion for the field of nursing as a practitioner, mentor, and patient advocate.

Students who complete one semester of Grand Rapids Community College’s Nursing Program can apply for the program and have up to three semesters of their GRCC tuition paid by UM Health-West. They will commit to working at UM Health-West for two years upon completion of the GRCC program and becoming licensed as registered nurses. During their employment as registered nurses, UM Health-West will encourage and support their completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) through existing partnerships and tuition reimbursement.

Startup funding for the pilot program came from the UM Health-West Foundation and was limited to classes of around 10 students for four semesters. The gift from Steve and Amy Van Andel has unlocked significant growth potential.

“This program alleviates cost barriers and paves the way for a new generation of nurses to pursue their careers without financial burden,” said Steve Van Andel, who also serves as chairman of the health system’s board of directors. “I’ve seen firsthand, through Amy, how nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system. We see this as an investment not just in the local workforce, but in the health and welfare of our entire community.”

UM Health-West CEO Dr. Peter Hahn agreed, saying the gift helps to address one of the most daunting challenges in healthcare today.

Even before the pandemic, the United States was facing a nursing shortage largely driven by demographics, with an aging population needing more care, a growing share of nurses nearing retirement age, and not enough younger people signing up to replace them. Then came COVID-19 and a new crisis for the nation’s largest healthcare profession. One analysis found that the total number of registered nurses declined by more than 100,000 in 2021, the largest drop in four decades. The Michigan Health and Hospital Association estimates the state currently has 8,500 open nursing positions.

“We know we need more talented nurses. And we know that community colleges open opportunities to students who reflect the communities we serve,” Hahn said. “We are grateful that Steve and Amy have provided this farsighted gift. They have opened the door for a new generation of nursing talent right here at home.”