Opening new doors - Scholarship helps St. Luke's Nurse

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After more than three decades as a registered nurse at St. Luke’s, Dawn Cook never thought she’d go back to school. But the new St. Luke’s Hospital – Mount Mercy University RN to BSN Program and financial support from St. Luke’s Foundation have opened new doors for her.

Cook has been part of St. Luke’s orthopedic unit since graduating from St. Luke’s School of Nursing diploma program in 1981. But over time, Cook began to feel she was missing something. She explains, “Newer nurses were equipped with more knowledge than I had. I also saw how rapidly medical technology was changing.”

Cook wanted a bachelor’s degree, but worried it would take years. Then in 2014, she learned about a new RN to BSN program offered by Mount Mercy University in partnership with St. Luke’s. It features an expedited curriculum that can be completed in as little as 1 ½ years.

“I was excited to know I could get my degree,” Cook recalls. She also applied for and received financial aid, including the Keech scholarship managed by St. Luke’s Foundation.

The scholarship was established in 1969 with funds from the estate of Dr. Roy K. and Bess Keech. Originally intended to support students at St. Luke’s School of Nursing, today the Keech Scholarship offsets tuition expenses for the 21 nursing credit hours required by the RN to BSN Program.

“Evidence supports a correlation between nursing education and patient outcomes,” says Carmen Kleinsmith, St. Luke’s VP/Chief Nurse Executive. “We value our nurses and want to give them an opportunity to continue professional development if they so desire. We asked the Foundation if they could support our RN to BSN Program and the Keech Scholarship was a perfect fit.”

Ten students each year are selected to complete the required 21 nursing credit hours in the RN to BSN program. Classes in the form of six courses that run for five-week sessions are held onsite at St. Luke’s. Some students may also need to complete core classes to achieve their degree; St. Luke’s Foundation scholarships and St. Luke’s Hospital tuition reimbursement are available to help cover tuition for those courses.

Dawn Cook received her BSN from Mount Mercy in February 2017. She says, “Getting my bachelor’s degree has given me a more well-rounded education, from evidence-based practices to communication and presentation skills. It’s also opening new doors for me.”

This fall, in addition to continuing to work on 4 Center, Cook will begin teaching clinical education as an adjunct nursing professor at Mount Mercy. “I’ve always liked teaching and precepting, so doing clinical education and lab assessments for nursing students is very exciting. Who knows, if I like it, I could go on to get my master’s degree!”

Applications for the 2018 Keech Scholarship are due October 2, 2017. Classes will begin January 2, 2018. The application can be found on St. Luke’s Foundation’s website.

If you have questions about the program or the application process, contact Tonya Arnold, director of grants and administration, at the Foundation.