FranU received an emergency aid grant of $5,000 for 48 students who graduated early from both the respiratory therapy and the nursing programs. Students will be able to use this aid as a substitute for lost wages to cover the immediate cost of living expenses or expenses related to entering professional practice while continuing to pursue their degrees. The funding will provide much-needed relief for students who will fill essential roles in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vice President of Business and Economic Development for Entergy Louisiana Eduardo "Ed" Jimenez said, "We truly believe that we are only as strong as our communities. So we took a look at what was needed the most during these difficult times and knew that helping the health care industry was critical. As a company that responds when major disaster strikes, we understand the value and importance of having as many frontline employees as possible. This contribution is our way of providing support to health care students to accelerate their graduation and get them in the frontlines to assist with the COVID-19 health crisis."
FranU received calls from area hospitals and health systems desperate for respiratory therapists (RRTs) and nurses, positions short-staffed before the onslaught of COVID-19 in Louisiana, and critical in the fight against the 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 on April 27. However, many students lost their part-time jobs because of recent layoffs, upon which they rely on paying tuition and affording daily needs. Those students have no additional income and their student loans are running out. Their most immediate need is funding for expenses such as food, housing, and utilities so they can 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, the early graduates were also required to pay for expenses related to entering professional practice: exam prep courses, exam fees, licensing fees, new uniforms and equipment.
The emergency aid will benefit not only the early graduates but also the patients they will be able to serve as clinicians. RRT assignments are based on procedure count, not the number of patients. On average, an RRT can perform 25-30 procedures per day, depending upon which unit they are assigned. Patient assignments for nurses vary based on the unit they practice and the acuity of the patients. On average, ICU nurses are assigned 1-2 patients, while nurses on a general unit might care for 5-6 based on patient acuity. Coronavirus patients tend to have a higher acuity, so the need for nurses increases as acuity increases.
Due to the rapid rise in hospital admissions because of COVID-19, current healthcare workers are overwhelmed by the volume of patients needing care. Depending on which unit they are assigned to work, the 11 new RRTs will collectively be able to perform an additional 275-330 procedures per shift, while 37 new nurses will collectively be able to care for 37-222 patients/shift, providing much-needed relief to current clinicians.
FranU worked with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and other Louisiana healthcare partners to help address the increased need for qualified healthcare professionals. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.
Currently, at OLOLRMC alone, there are ten open positions for RRTs and over 500 openings for full-time registered nurses. FranU's respiratory therapy program has achieved 100 percent board pass rates and employment rates for the last four years, while the nursing program has attained these metrics for the previous two years.
The expectation is that 100 percent of these graduates will be employed within the next few months, serving the community's most urgent needs related to this pandemic.