AdventHealth Offers $1.7 Million for Polk State Nursing
by James Coulter
Zachary Weathers remembers several years ago when his best friend was admitted to the emergency room. She had become violently ill, yet the doctors there dismissed her, assuming she was merely “seeking attention.” The nurses, on the other hand, advocated on her behalf and insisted that she remain at the hospital.
His friend was soon diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Had she returned home, as the doctors initially suggested, she would have died. She would not be alive today to be his wife and the mother of his child.
That moment changed his life forever. Remembering the dedication of the nurses who cared for his future wife, Weather was determined to become a nurse himself. His mother-in-law recommended that he enroll in Polk State College, as they had the best nursing program, he said.
Weathers was honored to have received his education and certification from Polk State College. He remains grateful for their commitment to excellence, and he hopes to bring that commitment to his career and his future teammates.
“It is clear that nursing is not for the faint of heart; however, if you are able to make it through to the end, it is easy to say that Polk State has prepared you with a wealth of knowledge and unforgettable experiences unlike any others,” Weathers said. “There is a reason why, when I tell people I am a Polk State Nursing Student, that I am met with impressed looks. This community knows that Polk State produces excellent nurses.”
Weathers was one of several dozen nursing students who attended a special media event on Tuesday to accept a $1.7 million endowment to the Polk State College Nursing program from AdventHealth. This generous donation will provide funding and resources to help invest in the leadership of the nursing program.
Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti, in her opening remarks, mentioned how her college’s nursing program more than exceeded the rigorous expectations for statewide certification. On the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN), 2021 PSC graduates boasted a nearly 91 percent exam pass rate “compared to 64% at the state level and 82% nationally,” according to a press release.
“Polk State is grateful to AdventHealth for its commitment to the advancement of quality education and training in health sciences,” Falconetti said. “AdventHealth’s donation will further support our College in recruiting and retaining highly skilled talent and further enhance the Nursing Program for both our students and the community, where our graduates are successfully filling critical workforce needs in healthcare.”
Tim Clark, President and CEO of the AdventHealth Polk Market, mentioned how the endowment will help recruitment efforts in the healthcare sector, especially during these uncertain times when the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the market. Currently, there are approximately 300 vacancies annually, as listed on the 2021- 2022 Regional Demand Occupations List for Polk County, according to the press release.
“That is the need in our community,” Clark said. “We know that, with this endowment, this will help build the workforce of tomorrow in nursing…Our dire need for highly-trained nursing professionals and our passion for supporting the educational institutions in our community, I look forward with this endeavor at Polk State College, and I look forward to many of you [nursing students] looking at AdventHealth as an [employment] option.”
Dr. Michael Bleich, Interim Dean at Polk State Nursing, mentioned how the endowment will not only benefit their program but will also benefit the local community, especially organizations like AdventHealth, by connecting their students and professors to them. He pledged that his university’s program will help uplift the community and provide it with high-quality professionals in important decision-making positions.
“I pledge…that we will lead with high standards to build a community that uplifts and inspires faculty, staff, and students regarding others as worthy of respect…to advance the professional and vocational goals with our sphere of influence…to promote intellectual excellence to develop nurses as thinkers and doers when delivering care…to continuously strive for the holistic well-being of self and others…to keep nursing relevant in an environment where high technology, competition for human and material resources, and complex decisions that must be made wisely with a vision toward our actions, both upstream and downstream, and the consequences therein,” he said.