$2.6M challenge grant seeks to raise money to help nurses earn BAs, MAs

EUGENE, Ore. - About 1,200 nurses work at PeaceHealth's Sacred Heart hospitals in the Eugene/Springfield area.

The chief nursing officer says only about 30 percent of RNs right now have their bachelor's or master's in nursing.

"We're on a journey with an ultimate goal to have 80 percent of our nurses have their bachelor's or master's degree over the next number of years," said Louella Freeman, chief nursing officer.

Don Tykeson and John Murphy, two Eugene businessmen, are joining the effort.

They have pledged to the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center's Nursing Education Foundation a combined $2.6 million dollar challenge grant - a donation they want to see matched by donors.

The foundation said research has shown that hospitals employing nurses with additional degree levels experience more positive patient outcomes and have fewer medication errors and lower mortality rates.

Freeman also said having a 4-year degree expands a nurse's horizons and allows a nurse to do things a 2-year degree does not.

"So that you can lead teams in this never-ending complex world we're living in with healthcare reform," Freeman said. "It also equips nurses with their bachelor's degrees they can go out and do community health nursing that with an ADN - associates degree in nursing - you can't do."

Freeman said a nursing degree can cost anywhere between $7,500 to $26,000.

The hospital pays about $1,500 a year for nurses to get their bachelor's degrees but leaves the rest up to the individual.

Freeman said this donation could make a huge difference for those who need an extra hand and degree.

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