Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University received a Community Crisis & Disaster Response Grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation for its Response to COVID-19 of $48,000.00.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation is committed to building a healthier Louisiana through community outreach and charitable giving focused on health and education initiatives and stated that the efforts of FranU provided an example of what is right about the state and its residents.
FranU received calls from area hospitals and health systems desperate for respiratory therapists and nurses, positions short-staffed before the onslaught of COVID-19 in Louisiana, and critical in the fight against this virus. RRTs play a vital role in managing ventilators and patients' airways, skills crucial to the survival of critical coronavirus patients. Nurses work closely with healthcare teams to manage all aspects of patient care, ensuring that the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of patients and their families are met.
FranU responded to the call for help by graduating 11 respiratory therapy and 37 nursing students early; however, because of recent layoffs, many students lost their part-time jobs, upon which they rely for paying tuition and affording daily needs. These students have no additional income and their student loans were running out. Their most immediate need was funding for expenses such as food, housing, and utilities so that they could stay in school, graduate and fulfill the community's dire need for RRTs and nurses.
In addition to covering the everyday cost of living expenses, early graduates were required to pay for expenses related to entering professional practice such as exam prep courses, exam fees, licensing fees, new uniforms and equipment, which add up to an additional $1,500 per student. Finances were already tight for many students and COVID-19 exacerbated the situation through lost wages. Many students were stressed financially, mentally and emotionally with entering their chosen professions being expensive. Lost wages, an accelerated plan of study, and the anxiety of living through an unprecedented pandemic such as COVID-19, the situation graduates faced was challenging.
Dean of Nursing Amy Hall said, "I have received several messages from the nursing students who received the money from our Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana grant. The students have been overwhelmingly grateful. They have experienced different challenging life events that occurred this spring in addition to the pandemic, and this money has helped them cope with these situations. For example, some have paid their mortgages or educational expenses, while others have been able to visit family members who are critically ill because of this grant. I am so grateful that we have been able to help our newest graduates reduce or eliminate some of their current financial barriers. This grant has made an enormous impact on our new graduates' lives and has facilitated their success as they launch into their new careers. This is a special class and this generous gift could not have come at a better time."
Program Director of Respiratory Therapy Sue Davis explained, "The grant received from Blue Cross assisted the graduating respiratory therapy students paying for their state license, two credentialing exams and allowing them to purchase necessary uniforms for work to get them into the workforce more quickly. The students were very thankful for these funds."
The expectation is that 100 percent of graduates will be employed within the next few months, serving the community's most urgent needs related to the pandemic.