Penn Medicine invests in future nurses with the ASPIRE program

PHILADELPHIA – penn medicine has partnered with the Howley Foundation and La Salle University to launch the ASPIRE Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), marking an important investment in the future of nursing. The High School and College Program will support local high school students in Philadelphia with the goal of increasing diversity in healthcare and providing opportunities for economic mobility. The program is supported by a commitment from the Howley Foundation of up to $7.5 million.

Each year, up to 25 outstanding high school juniors will be selected to be ASPIRE scholars and participate in an enrichment program, which will last for the remainder of their high school careers. The enrichment program offers mentoring and exposure to healthcare, the role of nurses, patient safety and more through a series of interactive, hands-on sessions at the hospital. The first cohort of high school students will begin with juniors in early 2023.

Upon graduation and meeting the requirements, students have the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at La Salle University with financial support from federal grants, a scholarship, and a scholarship from the ASPIRE Program itself, which is Funded by the Howley and Penn Foundation. During that time, they will have the opportunity to apply for paid positions at HUP, where they can practice their skills and gain more relevant experience.

“ASPIRE strongly aligns with the goals of Penn Medicine and HUP to provide developing opportunities for members of our community to continue to cultivate an inclusive workforce and provide exceptional patient care,” said Colleen Mattioni, DNP, MBA, HUP’s executive director of nursing. “The ASPIRE program will welcome a diverse group of young people into an environment of research, innovation, and evidence-based practice and high-quality clinical care. Of course, we will benefit from the enthusiasm, curiosity and passion of the participants.”

The first part of the program consists of lecture-style lessons and hands-on learning at the hospital for high school students. The instructors are HUP nurses and hospital staff. Although students will not participate in clinical work with hospital patients, they will have the opportunity to observe and assist nurses and other physicians. By the end of this part of ASPIRE, students will also have a better understanding of the life of a nurse and the skills and focus needed to excel on the job.

“Those starting nursing school may not have a lot of experience in the field unless they have volunteered somewhere or perhaps have family members who are nurses,” said Beth A. Smith, MSN, corporate director of Nursing Professional Development at HUP. “This program will not only appeal to a more diverse generation of future nurses, but it will also provide a unique opportunity to see the impact nurses have while building skills and giving them a strong head start in a nursing career.”

During their college years, ASPIRE Scholars will benefit from ongoing support and guidance through advisors who will offer guidance and support in academic and other matters affecting their education. They will also have regular check-ins with their peers and program instructors.

“We are excited to see the ASPIRE program grow over time and look forward to creating an environment in which ASPIRE students can thrive academically and professionally,” said Smith.

The ASPIRE Program at HUP is based on the model established by the Howley Foundation for the Cleveland Clinic in 2017.

“The Howley Foundation’s central focus is supporting quality educational opportunities, and the many wonderful institutions of learning in the Philadelphia region have served generations of our own family well,” said Nick Howley, Foundation president and founder. “We believe these programs are the key to creating meaningful social and economic mobility, and we are delighted to be working with Penn Medicine and La Salle, whose strengths align so closely with our mission. We look forward to seeing the ASPIRE model in Philadelphia and providing students in the region with an educational continuum that encompasses exposure to the nursing profession, training and mentoring, and very real employment opportunities.”

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