JANESVILLE

A significant financial donation Wednesday likely will improve the lives of local nursing students, local hospital patients and, eventually, the community.

Mercyhealth officials announced Wednesday they will give $100,000 to Blackhawk Technical College’s Nancy B. Parker Nursing Scholars Program.

In thanks, the college renamed its nursing simulation lab in honor of Mercyhealth. The lab includes sophisticated mannequins that respond to outside stimuli and can be programmed as “patients” with a variety of symptoms.

BTC President Tracy Pierner and Mercyhealth CEO Javon Bea highlighted the longstanding relationship between the two organizations and talked about how the nursing scholarships will help students and the community.

“The technology, know-how, innovations and ingenuity happening at Mercyhealth demand a workforce that is ready for work,” Pierner said.

That’s what BTC can provide for Mercyhealth, he said.

“But that doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Pierner added. “For more than 40 years, we have looked upon Mercyhealth as our partner in the community.”

The scholarships and donation provide another connection.

Bea said he knows first-hand how much scholarships mean. He said he wouldn’t have been able to enroll in college or graduate school without scholarships.

“These scholarships are key for nursing students who come through BTC’s nursing program,” Bea said. “Many of them have families, are working and going to school full time. That just shows us how much they want to be nurses.”

The technical college provides graduates who are ready to work, Bea said.

In an interview after the announcement, Bea said BTC’s nursing and health care programs are crucial to keeping hospitals and clinics staffed.

“Blackhawk is very, very important,” he said. “We’re one of the few hospitals in the last 30 years that have not experienced really severe nursing shortages.”

The donation is important for the future of the scholarship program.

In July, the Parker Foundation announced it was donating $250,000 over a five-year period to help start the scholars program.

During the next five years, Blackhawk Technical College officials will ask businesses and local health care systems to help raise another $500,000. If they can meet that goal, the Parker Foundation will donate an additional $250,000 to make it $1 million, thus creating a perpetual scholarship fund.

As part of the scholarship requirements, recipients must apply for jobs in southcentral Wisconsin.

The program is named after Nancy B. Parker and recognizes her lifelong contributions to and involvement with nursing activities, including serving on the board of trustees for what was then called Mercy Hospital.

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