One nurse is the recipient of a new scholarship designed to encourage more people to enter the medical profession. The number of new healthcare workers is not keeping up with demand. The scholarship is named after a nurse who died from COVID-19, and its first recipient wishes to honor his legacy.
“Jamarcus was the first candidate that we fielded and awarded a scholarship to from the Gary Woodward Fund,” said Ascension Saint Thomas Foundation Vice President Dan Thompson. “I actually just learned something today listening to Jim Marcus’s story. Ironically, and maybe rather magically, Gary’s story is a lot like Jamarcus’.”
Gary Woodward was a beloved nurse at Ascension Saint Thomas West who had spent much of his life in a different profession.
“Gary was an older professional who was not in the nursing field and he experienced St. Thomas as a family member to a patient and he was exposed to the care team and the processes around caring for people in the hospital,” said Thompson. “And he was so moved that he went back to school and changed his career to become a nurse and began working at St. Thomas.”
Woodward became ill with COVID-19 and died as a result of complications. His family wanted to honor him by helping nurses advance their education. The Gary Woodward Nursing Scholarship was first awarded to JaMarcus Corlew.
“I went to college and got my degree in graphic design, a minor in photography, did that for a few years,” said Corlew. “My grandmother’s would actually give me the passion for nursing.”
Corlew’s grandmother suffered from diabetes. He claimed she was injured in the kitchen and went to the doctor with a small scab. That wound quickly grew into a larger one, necessitating the amputation of her leg and another limb before she died. He began as a certified nursing assistant before becoming a licensed practical nurse. He recently became a registered nurse.
“When I first started nursing school, and everywhere we would go if we go to the doctor’s office, (she says) this is my grandson, he’s going to be a nurse and things like that. I often think about that all the time. I think my grandmother would be extremely happy.. I try not to cry, extremely happy just to know that I’m doing this,” Corlew said. “She never got to see me graduate. She never got to see me finish even when I became an LPN. And so I think this has been amazing. She has given me my passion, even the encouragement down through the years.”
Corlew is a Western Kentucky University licensed practical nurse and LPN-RN student who plans to use the scholarship to complete his Associate of Science in Nursing. All the while he works to educate others.
“I now work as a trained educator, and I’m over a medical assistant program,” he said. “Our program is active in seven schools across the Nashville area.”
The Gary Woodward Nursing Scholarship is part of the hospital’s efforts to place more nurses at bedsides where they are needed.
“Nursing is particularly challenged right now,” said Thompson. “But I do believe that on the heels of COVID, there really is an opportunity to see a whole resurgence of people who recognize the importance of this field, who gravitate towards things that are challenging and meaningful.”
According to the Tennessee Nurses Association, the pandemic has caused a domino effect, with burnout rates among nurses at an all-time high and the number of people entering the workforce falling short of meeting demand.
They believe that healthcare systems must provide incentives for nurses to enter and stay in the profession.