by Matt Batcheldor
Hannah Pinson, RN, is like many nurses starting their careers. She is excited about her job as a nurse in the post-anesthesia care unit at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital in Vanderbilt. She and her husband, Kegan York, have a growing family: Samuel, a 1-year-old son, and a new baby girl on the way.
Pinson would like to expand her career and raise a family in Nashville, but it’s difficult because she has $28,000 in student loans, in addition to loans from her husband, and housing costs keep rising.
“My husband and I are both newer, out of college for the past few years trying to kickstart our careers and get our teeth into it, so having these loans is kind of a cloud hanging over our heads. heads,” she said.
Pinson was thrilled to learn that Vanderbilt University Medical Center began offering a new nursing loan repayment benefit in March. VUMC will contribute $500 per month toward undergraduate student loans for direct care registered nurses (RNs), including resident nurses, in good standing at all VUMC and Vanderbilt Home Care Services (VHCS) clinics and hospitals.
“It’s a huge difference, especially with the amount Vanderbilt is paying,” Pinson said. “It makes my life a lot easier to know that I don’t have to do everything myself.”
Nurses can qualify for the reimbursement program after only three months of employment with VUMC. Eligible direct care nurses can participate in this program for up to four years, which means nurses can reduce their debt by up to $24,000 while enrolled. The average nursing graduate has student loan debt of $30,000.
In the short term, this investment in VUMC’s nursing workforce is expected to boost recruitment, improve retention, encourage diversity and boost productivity. In the long run, this will save nurses money that can be used for other purposes — buying a new home, starting a family or investing in retirement.
“Our nurses have told us that rising student debt is a major concern for them,” said chief nursing officer Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC. “This is true both for our new nursing residents and for nurses who have been here for a while but are still paying off their student loans. We know that once our nurses really get to know VUMC and the community, they tend to stay. This program will give more people the opportunity to pursue a career at VUMC without the burden of debt.
Early-career nurses aren’t the only ones to benefit. Andria Strickland, RN, a 10-year nurse at Vanderbilt, has been going back to school in recent years to get her bachelor’s degree, which she graduated in 2019. Since then, she’s been steadily paying off her student loan and was ‘ecstatic’ to learn that the Vanderbilt benefit would help pay off the rest — about $15,000.
“I think it’s a great incentive to help current nurses and new nurses,” said Strickland, a nurse clinician at the adult float pool. “I’m really excited about this.”
Mamie Williams, MPH, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, senior director of nursing diversity and inclusion, said the benefit will help make Vanderbilt a more diverse place to work.
“The student loan burden has a greater impact on minority nurses who tend to graduate from college with significantly higher student loan balances,” she said. “The loan repayment program will make VUMC a more attractive option for direct care nurses, especially nurses from diverse backgrounds.”
Chris Wilson, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, senior director of nursing education and professional development, who helped develop the advantage with VUMC’s human resources, said the advantage reinforces the longstanding commitment of VUMC to help staff advance academically.
“There are so many staff who can benefit from this,” she said.
For more details on how this new benefit works and who is eligible, please visit the Nursing Student Loan Repayment page at hr.vumc.org/benefits/nursing-student-loan-repayment.
“We are thrilled to be able to help improve the financial well-being of our direct care nurses by adding one of the most popular new benefits to our total compensation program,” said Amy Schoeny, PhD, Director of Human Resources . “As an academic medical center deeply committed to learning, this gives us another way to distinguish VUMC as a great place to work and develop a career.”