It will take thousands of communities like the Kenai Peninsula, and thousands more individuals like Don Bradford to meet the nursing shortage that is facing our nation, but the local effort of the Nursing Education Consortium is having an impact.
Last year Weber State University graduated it's first class on 13 RN's on the Kenai Peninsula, and another class is working to graduate in the spring of 2005. A local volunteer effort to help individuals pursue a career in nursing was started a little over a year ago, and has already awarded some $13,000 in scholarships to local nursing students. According to Lois Pillifant, Chairperson of the Nursing Education Consortium, "We held an auction last year and raised over $15,000, which far exceeded our expectations and we've awarded about $13,000 in scholarships so far. It sure is a lot of fun giving this money out," said Pillifant.
Wendy McConnell one of the most recent recipients of a $500 scholarship said, "Finances are a real challenge in getting through school, and it's been a real boon for us to have the community standing behind us like this and backing us up in our educational goals." "For me it meant the difference of whether I could buy all my books or not, after I graduate I plan to work here on the Kenai Peninsula," said Laura Gillis who also received a scholarship from the Consortium last week.
Recipient of the Beatrice Bradford memorial nursing scholarship Val Wedler, and Don Bradford hold a photo of Don's wife, Beatric who served as a nurse during WWII.
Bea Bradford was a professional nurse in the Army Nurse Corp during WWII, and continued serving as a nurse during the 65 years she was married to Don. Bea, a resident at Heritage Place in Soldotna, passed away a little while ago and Don decided to honor her lifetime of service by creating the Bea Bradford Memorial Scholarship for nurses, "As far as Bea was concerned nursing was the only way to make it, even marrying me didn't make it all the way, she had to keep her nursing program going and she came from a family of nurses that went way back three generations in Mexico. Bea use to say that if it wasn't for her uncle helping her with chemistry, she never would have made it, so now I'm trying to keep the idea of nursing education going and as long as the family keeps the money coming I'm going to keep Dennis here at Heritage Place busy giving it out," said Bradford, a retired Warrant Officer IV with 27 years of service involved with atomic weapons. The recipient of this year's Bea Bradford Memorial scholarship was Val Wedler, "I've wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl, and I think what Mr. Bradford is doing is a beautiful way to remember a loved one and help make sure there will always be enough nurses to care for people. I think it would be great if more people would follow his lead," said Wedler.
Lois Pillifant and Dennis Murray, Heritage Place director, are already looking forward to the next auction planned for November, "The community just so generous last year, our consortium is hopeful for another great auction in 2004. Having qualified nurses is everyone's business," added Murray.
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