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‘Transformative’ investment in health care workforce announced in New Hanover County

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In a significant move to address critical health care workforce challenges in New Hanover County, the New Hanover Community Endowment (NHCE) has awarded over $22.3 million in grants to several key educational institutions in their region, according to this press release.

This funding is part of what the endowment has dubbed a “transformative partnership” aimed at bolstering the health care sector by focusing on the recruitment, training, and retention of health care professionals.

“This is exactly the kind of thing that we want to invest in. We believe no change happens without collaboration,” said William Buster, president and CEO of NHCE, according to a press release from the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. “Ultimately, and with these strategic partners, we believe that there’s going to be substantive change in our community.”

The recipients of the investment from the endowment are Cape Fear Community College (CFCC), New Hanover County Schools, the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), and the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. Together, they will implement various initiatives designed to enhance the health care workforce in the region.

“The three words you’re going to hear over and over again today are partnership, collaboration, and problem-solving.”

— UNCW Chancellor Aswani Volety

Buster emphasized that the goal is to build a local talent pipeline.

“We’re excited, especially because this is about maintaining and keeping homegrown talent,” he said. “We’re looking forward to having folks who live here work here and have the opportunity to stay here and work in the field that they choose, like health care and nursing.”

Key areas of investment, according to the press release, include:

  • Support for success: This involves the educational institutions providing wraparound services such as recruitment, enrollment resources, and retention structures to aid student success.
  • Enhanced infrastructure: The funding will also be used to upgrade facilities, implement holistic admissions processes, and strengthen recruitment resources.
  • Pathway programs: The development and expansion of “pathway and pipeline programs” to guide aspiring health care professionals.
  • Innovative learning: The institutions will collaborate on simulated learning, health care professional cohort programs, and standardized exam study assistance.

Together, Cape Fear Community College and UNC-Wilmington will receive approximately $3.5 million over three years to address the health care workforce shortages through a “comprehensive, systems-based approach.”

Specifically, CFCC will receive approximately $8.6 million over three years to increase capacity of their nursing programs and recruit and retain underrepresented populations.

UNCW will receive approximately $8.3 million over three years to develop new programs, expand simulated learning, improve culturally competent care, and recruit and retain underrepresented populations.

New Hanover County Schools will receive approximately $1.7 million over three years to expose students to medical careers and give them hands-on experience.

And the Wilmington Chamber Foundation will receive approximately $250,000 over three years to develop new strategies around affordable housing for health care professionals and to facilitate collaboration between the entities.

CFCC president Jim Morton shared that he hopes this program is transformative.

“I believe this level of partnership is unparalleled nationwide,” Morton said. “I hope this serves as a source of inspiration for other communities working to reshape the health care careers landscape.

Novant Health announced a $10 million commitment to increase the number of trained health care workers locally.

“When one of us or someone we care about needs care at a doctor’s office, a nursing home, in a community or educational setting, or a hospital — we rely on trusted clinicians to provide the care we need,” said Amy Akers, chief nursing officer with Novant Health Coastal Market . “Our commitment — and the work of these partnering organizations in this room — is designed to ensure help will be there today — and in the years to come.”

The New Hanover Community Endowment’s investments are outlined in the PDF below.

Editor’s note: This article was updated Jan. 10 to clarify that in addition to individual allocations, UNCW and CFCC received $3.5 million for a collaborative project.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.