Scholarship allows health-care workers to upgrade education

The loved-ones of a woman who spent 14 months at Royal Jubilee Hospital have made a $3-million donation to health education

The loved ones of a woman who spent 14 months at Royal Jubilee Hospital have made the largest donation to health education ever received by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation to honour her memory and thank the staff.

The $3-million pledge resulted in the creation of the Heather Simpson Scholarship Fund, intended to advance the careers of Island Health staff, with $250,000 from the pledge earmarked for palliative-care education and training.

The scholarship has 59 inaugural recipients and will pay for 50 per cent of their annual tuition as they take part in a variety of health programs.

“This pledge sends the powerful message that our care teams are the pillars of our health-care system, and that there is a community of people that want to lift them up,” said foundation chief executive Avery Brohman. “In its essence, the scholarship lessens financial barriers for caregivers who wish to specialize, broaden or hone in on their skills, for the ultimate betterment of the community.

“We are deeply grateful to the donors for this pledge that is far-reaching and of much impact, especially in the times we are in.”

In choosing the scholarship winners, preference was given to Island Health employees with at least five years of service.

They include an X-ray technologist who wants to become a doctor, a registered nurse working to be a nurse practitioner and several licenced-practical nurses resuming their studies to earn degrees as registered nurses.

One of the latter is Mandie Vossler of Comox, who hopes to earn a bachelor of science degree in nursing from North Island College.

The 40-year-old said that the scholarship means she won’t have to give up educational time “in order to make ends meet.”

“Putting life on hold for school is hard as an adult,” Vossler said. “Words can’t express how grateful I am to have been chosen to receive this award.”

Nanaimo health-care aide Laila Vincent, also 40, said the scholarship means she can pursue the dream of being a nurse that she has had since she was nine. She said the dream was put on hold after she had children while she was young.

“Many times I told myself I’d go back to school when they were a bit older, but it never aligned.”

She said the time is right now, since the younger of her two children graduated from high school in June.

Vossler and Vincent were joined by other scholarship recipients Thursday for a ceremony at Royal Jubilee.

All of the scholarship recipients will start their programs before Dec. 31, 2024. The next round of applications will begin in May 2024.

Brohman called the scholarships “a gift that matters,” saying the donors wanted to fund an initiative that would fill an immediate need in the hospitals. “I know that this will profoundly impact retention and recruitment, as well.”

The people behind the scholarship hope it inspires more donations “and lets others know that they can give back this way, too,” Brohman said.

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