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Midday West Michigan

MiBiz with Mark Sanchez

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Mark Sanchez, Senior Writer, MiBiz

Grand Valley State University and BHSH System working to resolve nursing shortage.

Patrick Center: Wednesday afternoon.

Time for our bimonthly conversation with MiBiz senior writer Mark Sanchez. Some big news coming out of West Michigan and that's a partnership between BHSH System and Grand Valley State University trying to find a solution to the nursing shortage. This might be the National example.

Mark Sanchez: Maybe. And this situation has been well documented for years, not enough nurses. We are an aging, population. We’re unhealthy population. We’re a population that requires more care, especially in the years ahead as we all age. So, there's a nursing shortage and the pandemic has only made it worse. We've seen a lot of a hospital lose nurses. They have decided the pressure, the stress, the burnout, is too much. So, they're leaving. They’re retiring early. They're going to other care settings. They are going to other professions. How do you combat that? Well, BHSH System, these are the folks formerly known as spectrum health before the merger this year with Beaumont, partnered with Grand Valley State University, the Kirkhof College of Nursing. Spectrum’s putting $19 million up over six years to kind of increase that talent pipeline of nurses but half of this money will go toward scholarships for nursing students. $10,000 a year in the junior and senior years, so $20,000 for those nursing students. Spectrum hopes to support up to 500 additional nursing students at Grand Valley's Kirkhof College over the next six years. So, here's an example of an employer that been hit by this staffing shortage, all industries are feeling right now. It's stepping up to do something about it saying, 'okay, we've got some ability, some financial ability. We're going to come forward to partner with this organization, in this case Grand Valley, and hopefully this can help ease the situation. And this is not the first time that Spectrum's put up a chunk of money for staff and this talent shortage every industry is feeling. Remember late last year it had about a $170 million it budgeted for pay raises, for bonuses, retention bonuses, sign-on bonuses. So, here's again, one example of an employer, and the largest employer in the region, putting some money toward a problem that's affecting every industry.

Patrick Center: And it sends a message also that you have a university dedicated to nursing as Grand Valley is and also a health care system that is putting money into this. That has to be a draw for people who may be interested in nursing.

Mark Sanchez: Absolutely, and Spectrum is the biggest health system in the state now with the merger with Beaumont and certainly the biggest in West Michigan. And the other guys are awfully good, too. But there's some data that Grand Valley puts out for the health sciences programs; 92% of the graduates stay in Michigan. So, the thinking here for Spectrum is put the money in, help a nursing student through their education, those two years, and maybe they will come to work for us. Now, there is a requirement that if you are a student and you take a scholarship through this Spectrum funding. If you take a one-year scholarship, there's a requirement to work there one year after graduation. You take two years of scholarships, a requirement for two years of working there after graduation. If for whatever reason, that's not a good fit for you personally and you decide to go to work elsewhere, then those scholarships, those grants they're calling them, they turn into 0% interest loans. So, there still some assistance to help folks through their nursing degree even if they don't go to work at Spectrum. And the folks at Grand Valley and Spectrum in talking about this yesterday, they believe this is a model for the industry that can be replicated around the country.

Patrick Center: University of Michigan Health West also dedicating to the area of open-heart surgery.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, this is, we're going make this the all health care show today. U of M Health West, the health system formerly known as Metro Health, we have seen a lot of name changes in health care these days. Go back about a year, U of M Health West got what is known as a Certificate of Need approval from the state to do open heart surgery. And it's on track to do its first case sometime this fall. It's hiring staff. Its trying to bring surgeons aboard and recruiting right now. And when I spoke with CEO there, Peter Hahn, he says they're on track, they're on target to do their first case in the fall. Why is this significant? Because Grand Rapids is the largest market in the state without at least two open heart programs. There's two in Kalamazoo. There's two in Lansing. There's a number in Detroit. The nearest competitors to Grand Rapids are Mercy Muskegon, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Spectrum Health Lakeland down in Saint Joseph. And for more than two decades, if you required heart surgery, be it bypass surgery or valve replacement or whatever. If you are going to get that there in town, your option was Spectrum Health or traveling that 1/2-hour or 45-minutes, or whatever time, somewhere else. But if you're in Grand Rapids there was one program. So, when U of M West opens this up in the fall and it begins doing these procedures, that brings more competition to the market and we'll see where that goes from there.

Patrick Center: We're talking with Mark Sanchez, senior writer with MiBiz. You mentioned this is the all health care program. And you touched on some of the name changes we've had Metro Health becoming University of Michigan Health West. Now BHSH System formerly Beaumont Health, Spectrum Health. Now Trinity Health today is rebranding.

Mark Sanchez: Trinity Health, the Largest Catholic health system based out of Livonia. That is, I believe in 25 states, and is the owner of Mercy Health. Mercy Health Muskegon, Mercy Health Saint Mary's in Grand Rapids. This morning says that its rebranding. It wants to create a common brand identity around all of its hospitals. This is similar to what Ascension Health, that's a large Catholic health system out of St. Louis, owns Borgess down in Kalamazoo and couple of other smaller hospitals in the Southwest part of the state, remained Borgess Medical Center, Ascension Borgess Hospital. So, Trinity's doing something similar. it wants to create a single brand identity no matter where you go. And when I spoke to somebody yesterday, if you're a snowbirder and you go south to Florida, you see a Trinity on that hospital where you need some care, you know you're going to get the same level as your Trinity hospital back home. So, there are some changes coming, Mercy Health Saint Mary's will become Trinity Health Saint Mary's Grand Rapids. They're keeping that part of the name for now. And Mercy Health Muskegon is becoming Trinity Health Muskegon and there are again changes occurring all over the state. Trinity Health own eight hospitals in Michigan. So, you'll see those changes occur over a period of months. And once again, more name changes and rebranding in health as the players kind of position themselves in the market.

Patrick Center: MiBiz senior writer. Mark Sanchez, thank you so much.

Mark Sanchez: Thank you, Patrick.