Partnership Looks to Address Healthcare Education, Workforce Development, and Community Need
Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) and Southern Vermont College (SVC) are pleased to announce their formal affiliation to enhance healthcare education and workforce opportunities for college-bound high school students as well as working professionals interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. The strategic alliance looks to first address the growing nursing shortage expected to be experienced in Vermont, and is expected to grow to include other academic programs at the college.
The SVHC-SVC institutional affiliation cites plans to focus on several strategic areas, and includes: 1) supporting shared leadership and multidisciplinary collaboration; 2) developing educational programs to attract students seeking careers in nursing and other healthcare disciplines; and 3) stimulating workforce development through programs which will encourage staff to pursue education advancement while retaining existing SVHC employees. In addition, tuition incentives and career path opportunities will be developed for students in the collegiate program as well as tuition debt relief to encourage current staff to pursue educational advancement.
“The average age of SVHC’s registered nurse is 55 years old,” stated Thomas Dee, president and CEO of the health system. “Our affiliation with Southern Vermont College is a critical step to helping solve our hiring dilemma when we will need to replace retiring nurses. This partnership will help SVHC continue to build nursing and patient care excellence within our healthcare system.”
Data collected by the Vermont Business Roundtable for a statewide study details that Southwestern Vermont Health Care projects to have to replace as many as 40 registered nurse positions vacated by retirees in the near future. The same study forecasts that Vermont stands to replace nearly 3,000 nursing professionals during the same period.
Affiliation is one of the first of its kind between a rural health system and small private college
Several health systems and universities throughout the United States have clinical affiliations with academic medical centers, but few if any of these partnerships are in communities with a population under 40,000. For example, the University of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center have this type of affiliation, in which their medical center’s chief nursing officer serves as the university’s associate dean. Similar to other programs, a key objective of SVC and SVHC is to grow enrollment at the college while training and educating current and future employees at the health system. But a unique attribute to the SVHC-SVC affiliation model is the baccalaureate program will be supported by tuition relief for students who go on to careers at Southwestern Vermont Health Care and will enable current employees to advance their education at a significantly reduced cost. The long range vision of the program is to create an economic development multiplier by attracting college-bound students to SVC and retaining them as regional employees.
A key element to the SVHC-SVC affiliation will be individuals from both institutions serving in joint leadership roles and/or faculty positions. Along these lines, Mary Botter, PhD, RN, currently SVC’s Chair of the Division of Nursing and Health Services, will become SVHC’s new Chief Nursing Officer and retain her responsibility as Chair of the Division of Nursing and Health Services at SVC. Additionally, she will serve on SVHC’s executive management team, helping oversee the daily operations of the health system. Botter has significant nursing leadership experience, including previously serving as CNO at Fletcher Allen Health Care (currently called UVM Medical Center). She has also worked in numerous nursing executive positions in large healthcare organizations, including Mercy Hospital (Miami, FL), Albert Einstein Medical Center (Philadelphia), and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children (Philadelphia) and previously served as the executive director for the Vermont Board of Nursing. In addition, Shiela Boni, RN, MSN will assume the role of Associate Chief Nursing Officer at SVHC and Associate Chair of the Division of Nursing and Health Sciences at SVC. She will also serve as an Instructor of Nursing at SVC. Boni has been with SVHC for 14 years and has served in a variety of nurse leadership roles within the health system.
“Mary Botter is a dynamic nursing executive and has worked closely with nurse leaders at SVHC during her tenure at SVC,” stated Thomas Dee. “She will be a tremendous addition to our health care system and executive management team.” Dee added, “Sheila Boni has had a major impact as a nurse leader at SVHC, and in her new role will enhance how our health system continues to provide exceptional, award-winning care for our communities.”
The baccalaureate degree in Nursing at Southern Vermont College is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The program offers an intellectually challenging, hands-on academic experience to prepare students to be on the leading edge of quality nursing care in a variety of professional settings. Southwestern Vermont Health Care will serve as a clinical site for SVC students, and several of SVHC’s nursing professionals will serve as part-time faculty at the college. Recognized for its nursing excellence, quality patient care, and innovation, Southwestern Vermont Health Care is a four-time Magnet® hospital through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). In 2016, SVHC’s Barbara Richardson received worldwide recognition as ANCC’s Magnet Nurse of the Year®. And in 2017, SVHC was awarded ANCC’s Magnet Prize®—only one hospital is selected annually and it is the highest honor granted to a Magnet organization.
“SVC has had a long-standing relationship with Southwestern Vermont Health Care through their nursing executives instructing courses at the college and curricular collaboration,” stated David Evans, president of Southern Vermont College. “Affiliating with a Magnet® hospital and nationally-recognized health system like SVHC provides a tremendous opportunity for our students to learn from and shadow some of the country’s best nursing professionals as well as enhancing the clinical resources and experiential-learning of SVC’s baccalaureate program. Like SVHC, SVC is committed to the Bennington community and regional economic development, and our collaboration creates powerful synergies to help move our area forward.”