MU grant will help ease nursing workforce shortage

$800,000 Missouri Department of Economic Development grant, running from 2023 to 2026, will train 300 MU students as nurse assistants within MU Health Care.


April 3, 2023
Contact: Brian Consiglio, 573-882-9144,

A recent grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development will help train hundreds of MU students to become part-time nurse assistants at MU Health Care.

The three-year grant, which starts in fall 2023, will create a three-credit hour elective course within the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. The class will help nearly 100 MU students each year earn paid, part-time positions within MU Health Care as nurse assistants, also known as unlicensed assistive personnel (UAPs), certified nurse assistants (CNAs) and patient care technicians.

“We currently have nearly 800 pre-nursing undergraduate students at MU, and as a professor teaching a freshmen-level course, I often get asked by my students if there are opportunities available to work at MU Health Care before they begin nursing school their junior year,” said Robin Harris, an associate teaching professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing and the grant’s primary investigator. “I also hear from our partners at MU Health Care about staffing shortages throughout the health care industry, particularly the need for more nurses and especially nurse assistants, so we want to support this pipeline of students to help bridge the gap and serve both populations.”

After completing the elective course, which is open to both freshmen and sophomore pre-nursing students at MU as well as any MU undergraduate student looking for professional experience in the health care industry, the students will apply what they have learned during 100 hours of paid clinical training as a part-time nurse assistant within MU Health Care’s University Hospital. 

“I started my nursing journey as a nurse assistant, and to this day I still feel they do the most important jobs in the hospital for patient care,” said Jennifer O’Connor, an assistant teaching professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing and co-investigator on the grant. “They feed patients, clean their bed sheets, help them get to the bathroom and shower, wash their hair and take their vital signs. They are the unsung heroes who show compassion to patients, and they remind us that nursing is regarded as one of the most trusted professions.”

Harris added the paid opportunity ‘kills two birds with one stone’ by allowing students to ‘earn while they learn,’ which may reduce the need for students involved to take out student loans before graduation.

“We are doing our part to address the nursing shortage and provide MU students with both employable skills and the opportunity to gain real-world experience working in the health care industry,” Harris said. “Investments in initiatives like this are critical from a workforce development standpoint, and MU may serve as a model for other universities wishing to create similar pipelines to support hospitals and nursing homes with staffing shortages."

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