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SSM Health Partnership Boosts Nurse Education - 2024

by Brooklyn Brumley and Natalie Turner

In early 2023, SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital and Oklahoma City University announced their partnership called Saints and Stars. The five-year program intends to combat the Oklahoma nursing shortage while providing unique opportunities for OCU nursing students. It also gives nursing students the opportunity to work part time with SSM Health while still working on their degree. The selected students receive a $3,500 annual scholarship from SSM Health and a $5,000 annual discount from OCU.

woman smiling in front of news cameras
OCU nursing senior Joy Warlick is interviewed by local television stations after the press conference last February announcing the Saints and Stars program.

SSM Health provides program participants with opportunities for paid leadership clinical hours, participation in clinical rotations and a summer nurse extern program. They are also assigned a nurse mentor. Tammy Powell, OCU trustee and president of SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital and SSM Health Bone and Joint Hospital at St. Anthony, emphasized the importance of initiatives such as Saints and Stars to ensure effective health care environments state- and nationwide. “SSM Health St. Anthony is dedicated to providing high-quality healthcare to Oklahomans across the state,” Powell said. “That begins with training and employing a new generation of health care professionals. We see Saints and Stars as a key component in doing just that.”

OCU senior and program participant Joy Warlick described her experience. “After I was accepted, there was someone helping me each step of the way with my onboarding process, and I have been enjoying furthering my education and growing ever since,” she said.

“This agreement is extremely beneficial because it allows students the flexibility to complete their schooling and to do so with a job. St. Anthony Hospital is also very flexible with the hours we work, and they completely understand our workload as nursing students.”

OCU and SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital have a long history of partnerships, going as far back as 1959. In 1981, the St. Anthony Hospital School of Nursing merged with OCU and formed the Oklahoma City University School of Nursing. “We are proud to continue the tradition of collaboration between OCU and SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital,” said Gina Crawford, dean of OCU’s Kramer School of Nursing. “We are very excited to be able to offer additional support to our students and to continue to build on the high-quality education at Kramer School of Nursing. This partnership will assist in building a more robust nursing workforce in Oklahoma.”

Twenty junior nursing majors are selected for the program each year. Eligible students are invited by OCU admissions to complete initial applications. The admission process also includes an interview for SSM employment. “I will say, my experience getting into the program was challenging but also very rewarding,” said Warlick. “I submitted my resumé and an essay, as well as going through an interview process with Saint Anthony’s. As soon as I walked into my interview, I can still remember the hospitality that I was greeted with.”

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