Nashville hospital giant HCA Healthcare has built-in protection against the nursing shortage: It owns nursing schools.
HCA, one of the country's largest health systems, announced this week it intends to buy a majority stake in the parent company that owns Galen College of Nursing, a private nursing school with five campuses. It would be HCA's third nursing school investment.
For-profit HCA, which drew $46.7 billion in revenue last year, has owned the Mercy School of Nursing in Miami since its 2011 purchase of Mercy Hospital there. Before that, it acquired the Research College of Nursing in Kansas City, Mo., as part of its 2003 purchase of Health Midwest, also in Kansas City.
HCA declined to comment for this article, but said in a news release that the deal brings together two of the country's top nursing organizations to increase access to education, provide career develop and improve patient care. The release didn't say what percentage stake HCA owns, or how much it paid.
The release also didn't mention the nursing shortage that's driving up health systems' labor costs nationwide and is expected to intensify. Instead, HCA wrote that the partnership continues its focus on nurses and nursing excellence.
"Nurses are the lifeblood of our organization, and we've been intentional about investing in nursing so they can be successful and provide the best possible patient care," HCA's CEO, Sam Hazen, said in a statement.
HCA announced last year it planned to invest up to $300 million in expanding benefits, mostly through adding or expanding career development programs. HCA employs 94,000 registered nurses—with more than 6,200 of them hired last year alone—making it one of the country's biggest nursing employers.
Thad Wilson, president of the Research College of Nursing, told Modern Healthcare the school's relationship with HCA has allowed it to think beyond its traditional market in the Kansas City area.
"By having the opportunities and support of an international organization, it's allowed us to think bigger than before," he said.
Eighty percent of the Research College of Nursing's students receive so-called scholarships through HCA that require that they work at HCA upon graduation to repay the money, Wilson said. Students in the system's graduate program receive a 50% tuition discount if they're HCA employees. The school's students also receive training at five HCA hospitals, he said.
The deal is subject to regulatory approval and other closing conditions.
A representative with Galen did not respond to a request for comment, but the school's CEO, Mark Vogt, wrote in a statement that the partnership is a natural outgrowth of its mission to expand access to nursing education.
"Every interaction with HCA Healthcare has reinforced that we share common ideals and cultural expectations of excellence," he said. "We are extremely excited about building on the synergies between nursing practice and nursing education, and the possibilities this unlocks for years to come."