Atrium and GHC group photo.

GHC and Atrium Health Floyd partnership invests in the future of nursing

A new partnership between Atrium Health Floyd and Georgia Highlands College (GHC) will increase the number of nursing student positions at the college and grow the number of nurses entering the workforce in Northwest Georgia.

The multi-year agreement builds on a 50-year history of collaboration between the organizations, said Kurt Stuenkel, president of Atrium Health Floyd. Atrium Health Floyd has provided clinical training programming, scholarships and career pathways for Georgia Highlands graduates for generations.

“This partnership expands the nursing program at Georgia Highlands College, so more residents in our region will have the opportunity to pursue careers in nursing,” Stuenkel said. “And, looking ahead, it will create a pipeline of highly trained nurses who can have long careers at Atrium Health Floyd.”

Signing photo

GHC President Mike Hobbs stated partnerships like this one continue to reinforce the access mission at GHC.

“We are the talent producer for our footprint,” Hobbs said. “The heart of our mission is to provide access to a high-quality college degree from the University System of Georgia that prepares you for a career. Our partnership with Atrium Health Floyd bolsters our ability to expand what we offer to more families in our region. The pathways we provide directly help our students prepare for and secure careers in our footprint.”

According to Steppingblocks, an institutional research company that collects and reports outcomes data, over 85% of GHC graduates go on to start a career in the Northwest Georgia region.

“This agreement to provide a clear pathway from GHC’s nursing program to nursing careers in our community is an investment in our region that will benefit Northwest Georgia for years to come,” said University System of Georgia Board of Regents member Lowery May. “GHC provides top-notch nursing graduates, and since the nursing program was founded, GHC has added over 3,500 nurses to the workforce.”

The nursing program at GHC was established in 1971, and the program celebrated the 50th graduating class in 2022.

“This is a way to do something that’s good for the college, good for our health system and good for our community,” Stuenkel said. “These nurses will work side by side with our experienced clinicians and can advance in their careers to become nurse educators, leaders, nurse practitioners and healthcare providers in their own right. That is an incredible advantage for Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.”

Handshake photo.

As part of the agreement, the health sciences and nursing programs at Georgia Highlands College will be named the Atrium Health Floyd School of Health Sciences and the Atrium Health Floyd Department of Nursing. These programs will be housed at GHC where nursing students complete their program, which is currently the Lakeview Building, on GHC’s main campus on U.S. 27 South in Rome, and at the James. D. Maddox Heritage Hall, 415 E. Third Ave. in Rome’s Between the Rivers historic district.

“The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of nursing, especially hospital-based nursing. Many experienced nurses have retired, changed careers or been recruited to travel positions. This has resulted in a costly dependency on travel and agency clinicians,” said Sheila Bennett, senior vice president and chief of patient services at Atrium Health Floyd. “This is an investment to help Atrium Health Floyd grow a workforce that is ready to take care of our patients and their families and will directly impact the number of new nurses Atrium Health Floyd hires annually.”

Funds from the partnership will add scholarships, tuition assistance and financial assistance for learning materials. In addition, Atrium Health Floyd will fund a faculty position, and nurses from Atrium Health Floyd will serve as adjunct professors in the college’s nursing department. Atrium Health Floyd also will help purchase simulation equipment for training.

“Our agreement with Atrium Health Floyd will open doors and create opportunities for students in our region who are interested in careers in the health sciences,” said Dr. Lisa Jellum, dean of the Atrium Health Floyd School of Health Sciences. “Our students will benefit from more training opportunities as they build relationships right here in our community, and our graduates will have the opportunity to enter the workforce in professional positions with attractive salaries and benefits.”

Group photo

“Atrium Health Floyd and Georgia Highlands College are in a unique position to help local residents make a positive and lasting impact on our community and to change lives,” Stuenkel said. “Together, we will be better positioned to educate a healthcare workforce for jobs in our community. Our patients will benefit from excellent care from well-trained hands, and our community will realize an economic impact from the students who choose to work, live and raise their families right here in Northwest Georgia.”

About Atrium Health Floyd

The Atrium Health Floyd family of health care services is a leading medical provider and economic force in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama. Atrium Health Floyd is part of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Advocate Health, the fifth-largest nonprofit health system in the United States, created from the combination of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Atrium Health Floyd employs more than 3,5 00 teammates who provide care in over 40 medical specialties at three hospitals: Atrium Health Floyd Medical Center – a 304-bed full-service, acute care hospital and regional referral center in Rome, Georgia; Atrium Health Floyd Polk Medical Center in Cedartown, Georgia; and Atrium Health Floyd Cherokee Medical Center in Centre, Alabama; as well as Atrium Health Floyd Medical Center Behavioral Health – a freestanding 53-bed behavioral health facility in Rome – and also primary care and urgent care network locations throughout Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.  

About Advocate Health 
Advocate Health is the fifth-largest nonprofit integrated health system in the United States – created from the combination of Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health. Providing care under the names Advocate Health Care in Illinois, Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, and Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, Advocate Health is a national leader in clinical innovation, health outcomes, consumer experience and value-based care, with Wake Forest University School of Medicine serving as the academic core of the enterprise. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Advocate Health serves nearly 6 million patients and is engaged in hundreds of clinical trials and research studies. It is nationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, pediatrics and rehabilitation, as well as organ transplants, burn treatments and specialized musculoskeletal programs. Advocate Health employs nearly 150,000 team members across 67 hospitals and over 1,000 care locations and offers one of the nation’s largest graduate medical education programs with over 2,000 residents and fellows across more than 200 programs. Committed to equitable care for all, Advocate Health provides nearly $5 billion in annual community benefits.