OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A hospital system and local university are teaming up – hoping to help alleviate our state’s critical shortage of nurses.

Through a unique program, Oklahoma City University nursing students will get scholarship money and hands-on experience at SSM Health St. Anthony.

“I am eager to get in there and help and make a difference,” said Joy Warlick, an OCU nursing student. 

This next generation of healers are critically needed.

Oklahoma has long endured a nursing shortage that was made worse by the pandemic.

“During my three decades in this profession, I’ve never seen a change in our industry like the one that happened since 2020,” said Elain Richardson with SSM Health. “Nurses are more in demand than ever.”

That’s why Oklahoma City University and SSM Health St. Anthony are partnering for the “Saints and Stars Program” with key financial incentives for students.

Through this five-year agreement, OCU nursing students can work part-time at SSM while completing their degree.

Additionally, they’ll receive a $3,500 annual scholarship from SSM Health and a $5,000 annual discount from OCU.

“We’re going to be able to offer 20 individuals at SSM a four-year degree in nursing,” said OCU President Kenneth Evans. “Furthermore, we’re going to be able to provide two of the individuals who are BSNs in nursing here and also found an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in nursing as well.”

City leaders are optimistic about what it means for the residents they serve.

“For some 20 years I’ve heard about the nursing shortage in Oklahoma, and policymakers are often, you know, very strained in how we can how we can address it,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “We really need higher education. We need private institutions. We need the health care community to get creative. And you see that here today.”

For more information, visit okcu.edu/nursing.