Sen. Durbin Visits IC, Announces $911,000 Earmark for Nursing Program

By Benjamin Cox on April 26, 2024 at 10:55am

Illinois’ Senior Senator Dick Durbin visited the Illinois College campus yesterday to announce federal money secured to help the college expand its nursing program.

Durbin announced a $911,000 earmark secured in the FY24 omnibus to expand the school’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and thereby respond to the demand for more highly trained nurses in Central Illinois.

Durbin says that Illinois College is a great national example of training and keeping healthcare professionals in a rural area: “The good news is most of these students are from Central Illinois and they will continue living in Central Illinois. We desperately need more healthcare professionals, especially nurses. Today, I brought federal dollars back from Washington to Jacksonville and Illinois College with a grant of over $900,000 for them to develop the nursing program. It’s small now but they have ambitions to make it much larger and that’s good news for all families in Central Illinois.”

Durbin commended Illinois College for taking on a nursing program after MacMurray College’s closure, noting that MacMurray’s nursing program was highly regarded. Durbin also highlighted “Roadmap to Grow Illinois’ Rural Health Workforce”—a partnership with hospitals, community health centers, medical and nursing schools, community colleges, dentists, physicians, and nurses that organizes efforts and provides new funding to address health care workforce shortages and staffing crises in rural Illinois. The Roadmap focuses on: (1) pipelines to recruit middle/high-school students into health careers; (2) expanding capacity of clinical education programs; and (3) enhancing recruitment to rural areas. He also spoke of the authored provision in the American Rescue Plan to invest $1 billion into the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Nurse Corps, which funds scholarships and loan repayment for new doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral health clinicians who commit to serve in rural and urban areas of need. Durbin said that public and private college students are eligible for the loan repayment and scholarship program to continue to funnel a pipeline of new healthcare professionals including nurses, doctors, dentists, physical therapists, among others.

Illinois College President, Dr. Barbara Farley says it’s a critical investment for the future of the region not just the college: “This funding to expand our nursing program is an investment in Illinois College students to address the critical need for skilled nurses in our region. Opportunities like these inspire students and empower them to make a difference in the world.”

Memorial Health President & CEO Ed Curtis says the federal money will also further secure the hospital’s partnership with Illinois College’s nursing program: “The partnership between the federal government and this grant just helps this college and Memorial to even further expand upon our work that we’re doing to train the next generation of nurses in Central Illinois.”

Durbin says he’s also working on legislation with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski to address the pay gap between clinical and faculty nursing positions—which is the primary economic disincentive fueling the nursing shortage crisis across the country in order to expand capacity in nursing programs across the country.

Mock ups of clinical area upgrades and expansions at the Parker Sciences building were on display for the public to view on how the money will be spent. Illinois College recently had a cohort of 11 students pass their national nursing boards. Those students will now be able to directly filter into the local pipeline of healthcare professionals in the area upon graduation.