Wisconsin’s health care system faced unprecedented staffing challenges as it navigated multiple waves of COVID-19 infections. Additionally, existing staffing challenges in Wisconsin’s nursing homes and skilled care facilities were heightened by the pandemic, creating a critical need for more health care workers to care for elderly residents and persons with special needs. 

A COVID-19 Response Grant for the UW Student Health Care Worker Tuition Program has helped meet these crucial staffing needs. The tuition program provided a $500 tuition credit to nursing and health sciences students at participating UW System schools who worked in hospitals and health care settings during the spring 2022 semester. The initiative was led by the UW–Madison School of Nursing, and supported with a $500,000 grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program to expand an initial effort supported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

A nursing student takes a patient's blood pressure

Thanks to this incentive program, more than 1,600 nursing and health sciences students stepped up to meet the health care needs of their communities and receive tuition support. More than 600 students from undergraduate and graduate nursing and health sciences programs at UW–Madison participated and more than 1000 students took part from partnering 12 UW System schools.

“Each participating student has provided at least 50 hours of essential service to their communities and gained both valuable experience and financial support,” said UW–Madison School of Nursing Dean Linda D. Scott, PhD, RN, and co-director of the project. “The program’s reach was remarkable as well, with students serving in a variety of settings, including hospitals and clinics, assisted living and long-term care facilities, hospices, pharmacies, and more.” These settings were located within 79 unique Wisconsin zip code areas and included rural, urban, and suburban locations.

“This project represents the true power of partnerships in meeting the needs of our state’s health care system, and the patients and families it serves,” said Amy Kind, MD, PhD, associate dean for social health sciences and programs at the School of Medicine and Public Health and executive director, Wisconsin Partnership Program. “We are grateful to our state’s dedicated health care workforce and equally grateful for the support that students throughout the UW System have provided at this time. These future health professionals are already serving and strengthening our health care system in meaningful ways.”