Memorial Health Announces $4 Million Gift to I.C. Nursing Program

By Benjamin Cox on June 6, 2023 at 10:36am

Leaders at Memorial Health and Illinois College held a news conference announcing a new partnership intended to expand access to nursing education in the region. (Photo: Bobbi Wiseman/Memorial Health)

Representatives of Memorial Health and Illinois College along with civic leaders gathered in the Parker Rotunda on the Illinois College campus yesterday to announce a new partnership for the college’s nursing program.

Memorial Health has formed partnerships with multiple colleges and universities in Central Illinois with the goal of helping local nursing schools educate more future nurses. As part of this initiative, Memorial Health is providing a $4 million gift to Illinois College to increase enrollment in its pre-nursing and BSN programs.

Ed Curtis, president and CEO of Memorial Health says that many workers are retiring rapidly out of the healthcare industry. Curtis, a former RN himself, says partnerships like this one with I.C. Is vital in continuing the hospital system’s mission: “Memorial Health has a mission to improve lives and build stronger communities through better health. We can’t fulfill that mission without people caring for each other, caring for patients, caring for our community. This you may not know, but 1 in 5 colleagues that work in our health system are registered nurses. That’s the reason that we are here today to partner with Illinois College so that we could take a program and expand it maybe over time by five fold the number of students that are coming through. It’s expensive to go to college and so, we want to use some of our funds for scholarships for the nursing students so they can come out with a lower debt burden, as well.”

Curtis says that its alright if the expanded capacity for nurses doesn’t directly come to a Memorial-affiliate organizations because Memorial understands the need for more capacity in nursing programs. He says there are currently 80,000 students or more across the country awaiting entry into a nursing program. Curtis says that leadership at Illinois College will make it a flagship school for nursing in the region and will be a key factor in reducing the region’s long-term healthcare workforce shortage, particularly in nursing.

President of Illinois College Dr. Barbara Farley says the Illinois College nursing program has grown exponentially since its inception in March of 2020 to fill the void left by the closure of MacMurray College.

Dr. Farley described some of the specifics the gift from Memorial will bring in the near term: “There are many components to this partnership – scholarships that will support students and student success, there will be renovations to this building [the Parker Science Building] to support state-of-the-art facilities for clinical simulation experiences. We will be bringing in talented faculty and staff to support supplemental instruction, and tutoring, and to be academic coaches. We could not do this without the input that Memorial Health will offer us as to the critical needs in Nursing Education. We will offer a contemporary, forward-looking education for our students.”

Farley invoked I.C.’s upcoming bicentennial in 2029 during her remarks. She says that the college will be the top school for nursing in the region by the time that hallmark is reached.