‘Significant’ donation from Epic to help UW Health address healthcare worker shortage

MADISON, Wis. — UW Health says a “significant” donation from Epic Systems will help it address a shortage of healthcare workers.

The new push from Wisconsin Medicine aims to create programs for nursing retention and community-based apprenticeships, UW Health said in a news release Tuesday.

The healthcare provider is also planning to pay for current and future medical and nursing assistants’ bachelor’s degrees while also maintaining their full-time salary and benefits despite those employees not working full-time due to their schooling.

The nursing recruitment program will focus on reaching marginalized groups who often have a harder time entering the field.

“There’s a lot of research and evidence around how patients react to health care providers that look and sound like them, and we really need our workforce to start looking like our community and that’s really going to be one of the big focuses for this program,” said Rudy Jackson, UW Health’s senior vice president and chief nursing executive.

UW Health CEO Dr. Alan Kaplan said they will also be partnering with groups like Centro Hispano of Dane County to identify people in the community interested in the medical field to bring them into UW.

He said UW Health would put those interested in nursing on a path towards a bachelor’s degree, beginning with an entry-level CNA position at UW Health for a minimum of $17 an hour plus benefits.

The hospital would then pair participants with counselors and mentors as they enrolled in Madison College to become advanced associate nurses. Kaplan said if they get through that program, the medical provider would then pay their tuition for a nursing bachelor’s degree at UW.

UW Health hopes to launch the program soon and enroll its first class of students next fall.

While the exact dollar amount of Epic’s donation was not given, it will be able to support up to 35 students per semester for six years.

According to UW Health officials, Wisconsin faces a deficit of more than 8,000 healthcare positions across the state, with 3,500 of them in the Madison area alone.