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Scholarship Helps Nurse Fulfill Dreams

“To be a nurse is an awesome role,” Colleen Farnum, RN, CPAN, BSN, says enthusiastically. And she ought to know—she’s been one for 20 years, and currently serves as director of Surgical Services at Jefferson Health – New Jersey in Cherry Hill.

Farnum is considered a leader in her profession, but she says she might not have been able to rise to a management position if not for a Jefferson Health – New Jersey Nursing Scholarship Award. The scholarships are designed to support nurses who want to pursue advanced degrees and to offer non-nursing associates the opportunity to enter the field.

The Medford, New Jersey, resident started out two decades ago as a registered nurse at what was then Kennedy Hospital. Believing that the key to becoming a better nurse is continuing education, she decided to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing in early 2016. Her timing couldn’t have been worse—she and her husband, Greg, were preparing for their three children to enter college over the next few years.

“With three kids headed for college, that would mean 12 years of tuition payments for them, on top of my tuition,” Farnum says. “It was a daunting thought.” Yet she took on the challenge—and the financial burden—and started moving toward her goal at a slow, steady pace.

That pace picked up in September of 2016 when Farnum received the scholarship. She finished her BSN in December of that year.

“Getting the nursing scholarship meant I could pursue my educational goal at the same time my children were pursuing theirs,” she says. And, although she insists nothing would have stopped her from eventually reaching her objective, the scholarship allowed her to do so more quickly. “Without it, I would have had to postpone obtaining my BSN until my children had finished with their college degrees.”

She says that Kennedy Nursing Scholarship Awards—renamed the Jefferson Health – New Jersey Nursing Scholarship Fund after Kennedy and Jefferson merged in 2017—benefit both healthcare providers and patients.

“They give nurses the chance to further their education so that they can offer patients and their families the best care in South Jersey,” she says. They also help hospitals achieve the prestigious Magnet Recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. It is the most-esteemed distinction a healthcare organization can receive for nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. Only 8 percent of U.S. hospitals earn the Magnet designation status; Jefferson Health hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania consistently earn the recognition.

“We are so excited that we won Magnet again,” Farnum says, noting that Jefferson Health – New Jersey is staffed with the best in the field. “Nurses are critical thinkers. They have to be quick decision-makers while maintaining connectivity to their patients, and compassion during times of crisis.”

But resting on her laurels isn’t in Farnum’s DNA. She recently returned to school—this time in pursuit of a Master of Science in nursing (MSN). Once again, she believes the more she learns, the better she serves her patients.

“I would encourage anyone thinking of getting an advanced nursing degree to do it,” she says. “If taking care of people is in your heart and soul—if you are dedicated to the care of others—you should pursue that dream and keep going at any cost to get there.”