Kaiser Permanente Northern California awards Deloras Jones Scholarships to 120 promising nursing students in the community. Pictured above, Deloras Jones congratulates a scholarship recipient at the awards ceremony December 2017.
Allen Zhang describes his life as “an American dream coming true.” But for the 32-year-old immigrant from China, achieving the dream takes discipline and hard work.
Zhang, who immigrated to the United States 10 years ago, has a 3.75 GPA in his full-time Bachelor of Science nursing program at Sonoma State University. He’s also a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy reserves, a part-time instructor for people with developmental disabilities, and together with his wife, he’s raising 2 school-aged daughters.
“Nursing school, with its clinical rotations, is like 2 full-time jobs,” he said. “I’m only able to study after my kids go to bed, so it’s really tough.”
Zhang and 119 other Northern California nursing students recently received scholarships from Kaiser Permanente. The students, who are working on either associates, bachelors, masters, or doctoral degrees in nursing, each received $1,000 to $3,000 through the Deloras Jones Scholarship program.
For Zhang, the scholarship is a welcome financial boost that will help pay his tuition, but he said it also represents much more.
“This scholarship is a boost to my confidence, and it encourages me that I can be successful in the United States,” Zhang said.
Supporting a Well-Educated Nursing Workforce
Established by Kaiser Permanente in 2000, the Deloras Jones Scholarship recognizes academic excellence among nursing students and promotes a nursing workforce that reflects the diversity of California communities. Over the years, more than 2,000 nursing students across California have received approximately $5 million through the scholarship program.
The scholarship is named after Deloras Jones, RN, MS, who spent her 35-plus-year career at Kaiser Permanente and was the organization’s first Chief Nursing Executive across Northern and Southern California. Jones attends every scholarship reception and tries to meet every scholarship recipient.
The 2017 Northern California Scholarship winners included 25 students seeking associate’s degrees, 21 seeking bachelor’s degrees, 69 seeking master’s degrees, and 5 pursuing PhDs. Jones said the winners reflect how today’s health care system demands a well-educated nursing workforce.
“Almost all the associate’s degree nurses I spoke to say they’re planning to get their bachelor’s or master’s degrees,” she said. “Today’s nurses work in increasingly complex environments where patients are acutely ill. They need to be comfortable with evolving technology, problem solving, and taking on leadership roles.”
A Message of Encouragement
Alicia Hernandez Punsalan, RN, is one of the dozens of scholarship recipients pursuing a master’s degree. The 27-year-old bilingual nurse from Clovis works part time at a medical center in Fresno and commutes to the UCSF School of Nursing, where she’s maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her Family Nurse Practitioner program.
In her hospital work, she says she sees patients from the Latino community suffering from uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, and kidney failure.
“I want to work in primary care so I can help educate people in my community with chronic conditions,” Punsalan said. “In talking to my Spanish-speaking patients in the hospital, I find they often don’t grasp the seriousness of their disease, and they have not had good access to primary care.”
Like Zhang, Punsalan said she will use her scholarship to help pay for tuition. In addition to the financial help, Nikki West, director, Health Care Education Management, who manages the scholarship program, said she hopes the awards offer encouragement.
“Nursing is a competitive field and nursing school is demanding,” West said. “We want these students to know ‘Kaiser Permanente recognizes and supports their hard work.”
Members of the community can apply for the Deloras Jones Nurse Scholarship beginning in spring 2017. While this scholarship is not open to current Kaiser Permanente employees, Kaiser Permanente nurses who are interested in advancing their education can visit the Kaiser Permanente Nurse Scholars Academy website and the Education Assistance and Tuition Reimbursement page on My HR for information and opportunities.
See more photos from the Deloras Jones Scholarship awards night.