VUMC debuts new loan repayment benefit for nursesApr. 27, 2022, 2:59 PM
by Matt Batcheldor
Hannah Pinson, RN, is like a lot of nurses just 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 at Vanderbilt. She and her husband, Kegan York, have a growing family: 1-year-old son Samuel and a new baby daughter on the way.
Pinson would love to grow her career and raise a family in Nashville, but it’s hard because she has $28,000 in student loans, in addition to her husband’s loans, and housing costs keep increasing.
“My husband and I are both newer, out of college in the past few years, trying to start our careers and get our feet under us, so having these loans is kind of a cloud that’s hanging over our heads,” she said.
Pinson was excited to learn that Vanderbilt University Medical Center began offering a new nursing loan repayment benefit in March. VUMC will contribute $500 monthly toward undergraduate student loans for direct care registered nurses (RNs), including nurse residents, in good standing at all VUMC clinics and hospitals and Vanderbilt Home Care Services (VHCS).
“It’s a huge difference, especially with the amount that Vanderbilt is paying,” Pinson said. “It makes my life a lot easier knowing that I don’t have to do it all by myself.”
Nurses can qualify for the reimbursement program after just three months of employment with VUMC. Eligible direct care nurses can participate in this program for up to four years, meaning nurses can reduce their debt by up to $24,000 while enrolled. The average nursing graduate has $30,000 in student loan debt.
In the short term, this investment in VUMC’s nursing workforce is expected to bolster recruiting, improve retention, encourage diversity and boost productivity. In the long term, it will enable nurses to save money that can be used in other ways — purchasing 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 Executive Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC. “This is true both for our new nursing residents and nurses who have been here for a while but are still paying off 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 build a career at VUMC without the burden of debt.”
It’s not just early career nurses who stand to benefit. Andria Strickland, RN, a nurse for 10 years at Vanderbilt, went back to school in recent years to get her bachelor’s degree, which she obtained in 2019. She has been steadily paying down her student loan since, and was “ecstatic” to learn that the Vanderbilt benefit would help pay down the remainder — about $15,000.
“I think it’s a great incentive to help the current nurses and the nurses coming in,” said Strickland, a clinical nurse in the adult float pool. “I’m really excited about it.”
Mamie Williams, MPH, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, senior director of Nursing Diversity and Inclusion, said the benefit will help make Vanderbilt a more diverse workplace.
“The student loan burden has greater impact on minority nurses who tend to graduate from college with substantially 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 benefit with VUMC Human Resources, said the benefit furthers VUMC’s long-stan-ding commitment to helping staff progress academically.
“There are so many staff that can benefit,” she said.
For more details about 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 excited to be able to help address the financial well-being of our direct care nurses by adding one of the most popular new benefits to our total rewards program,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Amy Schoeny, PhD. “As an academic medical center with a deep commitment to learning, this gives us another way to set VUMC apart as a great place to work and grow a career.”