FGCU, Lee Health keeping nurses in Lee County

Writer: Sommer Senne
Published: Updated:

Noah Zochling knows what it’s like to need healthcare professionals.

He had chronic illnesses as a child and was constantly in and out of the hospital, seeing different doctors and nurses.

“Nurses have always been probably like, the best people that have cared for me,” Zochling said.

Noah went to Florida Gulf Coast University to achieve his dream of becoming a nurse.

“A lof of the nurses that I’ve seen when I was growing up at the hospital for my procedures were from FGCU,” he said.

Now, FGCU and Lee Health are working together to help other students follow their dreams.

They’ve created the new Lee Health Florida Gulf Coast University Scholarship Program.

“This is really helping to enhance and keep those people right here in this community,” said Jennifer Higgins, Chief Nursing Officer for Lee Health.

The scholarship is possible through the “Linking Industry to Nursing Education” or LINE Grant.

Students get their tuition covered and apply for a Lee Health nursing residency.

“The whole residency program supports that nurse for several weeks, depending on the specialty, but they become independent in their practice,” Higgins said.

These students then work with Lee Health for 18 months after graduation.

“It really helps to increase retention of nurses in the first year,” said Brenda Hage, Director of the FGCU School of Nursing. “It’s a win-win for our community partner because they get qualified graduates. It’s a win-win for us because our students are able to focus on their academic success.”

It’s also a win-win for Noah, who gets to stay close to home and give back to his community.

“I think nursing is the purest form of serving,” he said. “I think that’s where I want to be. I want to be a servant first.”

The LINE Grant, along with state funding, is also used to purchase mannequins and equipment for FGCU’s nursing lab.

Lee Health and FGCU have 21 students in the scholarship program and hope to accept more students next year.

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