Dick Yarbrough, Syndicated columnist
It is the gift that will keep on giving. And it could not be more rewarding.
This past month, my family and I established the Jane J. Yarbrough Endowed Nursing Scholarship in the WellStar School of Nursing at Kennesaw State University. The scholarship will be awarded to non-traditional students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree but are interested in pursuing nursing at Kennesaw State.
It is no secret that there is a severe shortage of nurses these days.
According to statistics, Georgia currently has less than 100,000 nurses in a population of more than 10-andhalf million people.
Simply put, there are not enough new nurses graduating from nursing school to deal with the number of people needing medical attention.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing attributes the shortage of nurses to several factors, including the fact that the rate of retirement for nurses is growing.
Over half of the registered nurse workforce is currently over 50 years old. Even though nursing school enrollment is up, it is not keeping pace with projected demand and the need for nursing services.
My family and I saw a critical need that we could address as well as an opportunity to honor a beloved wife and mother who epitomizes what the scholarship represents – a chance to begin a rewarding career at a time when others are in the process of winding theirs down. Here is the story of how that came to be.
When I returned from a tour of duty in Washington, courtesy of the Bell System, we were empty nesters with two children in college. That left Momma as the only one without a degree. She had grown up in the dark ages when young women were encouraged to become secretaries, get married, have babies and leave the business world to the guys.
This in spite of having been a straight-A student in high school, a member of the National Honor Society and possessed with a great love for medicine. So, the family decided it was the perfect time for Momma to head off to college and scratch her medical itch. That meant Kennesaw State University and the pursuit of nursing.
It wasn’t easy. It was hard. Very hard. She had been out of school for a long time. But she prevailed thanks to her intelligence and tenacity and a lot of family support and her dream came true. The former stay-at-home Mom was now a registered nurse.
Not long after graduation, she was hired into Delta Air Lines’ occupational nursing department, where she stayed until I retired from Bell-South and joined the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games which required a lot of travel and involvement on both our parts. But that is not the end of the story.
It was during her time at KSU that our son had broken up with a longtime girlfriend. Trying to be helpful, Momma mentioned that her lab partner had just broken up with her boyfriend. The two had become good friends while working together in lab class. It seems you get to know people pretty well when you are dissecting dead critters.
Only out of profound sense of loyalty to her would our son even consider going out with someone his mother had recommended, let alone one who cut up dead stuff with her.
But he agreed. But only for one date.
And just as a favor to his mother.
That was 37 years ago and that young lab partner today is his wife, Jackie, the mother and grandmother of a great and loving brood of Yarbrough offspring as well as a hospice nurse. As for me, I got a wife with a hard-earned nursing degree and a wonderful daughter-in-law as a bonus.
Life has not gone as I had expected. I had assumed, given my pedalto- the-metal lifestyle, I would be the first to go. I assumed wrong. Almost imperceptibly, my beloved partner began to decline both physically and mentally. After two long and agonizing years and in the midst of Covid-19, we lost her on a cold December day in 2020. God had other plans for her.
She made this a better world while here and now her good works will live on. The Jane J. Yarbrough Endowed Nursing Scholarship at Kennesaw State University’s School of Nursing will benefit those aspiring to change careers and become part of a profession that she loved passionately. She is truly the gift that will keep on giving. Rest in peace, Jane Yarbrough, RN.