Drive through Indiana, and you’re sure to spot at least one license plate sporting an illustration of a black stethoscope with a red diaphragm. Not only do these license plates provide motorists the opportunity to show their support for nurses, they enable the Indiana Organization of Nurse Executives (IONE) to fund a wide range of initiatives.
Launched by IONE in 2003, the License Plate Fund is part of the Special Recognition License Plate Program sponsored by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). The BMV grants approval for these plates as a way to recognize groups that have made significant civic, community and charitable contributions to the state of Indiana. IONE receives $25 for each nursing license plate sold.
In just 13 years, IONE’s License Plate Fund has provided more than $1.3 million in financial support to its members across the state. The majority of that total has been awarded in the last three years. Scholarship and grant money distributed from the fund has risen from $14,360 in 2004 to $405,366 in 2015.
Jason Gilbert, associate chief nursing officer for Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, is one of 13 nurses in the state of Indiana who received scholarship support to pursue an advanced nursing degree in 2014.
“The IONE scholarship was invaluable in helping to reduce the direct out-of-pocket costs related to the program,” Jason says. “There are fewer and fewer opportunities for nurses to receive funding to pursue graduate education. Receiving this scholarship was greatly appreciated, and I feel very grateful every time I see one of the ‘Be a Nurse’ license plates.”
For more than a decade, the scholarships from the License Plate Fund had been available solely for those pursuing a graduate education like Jason. However, in 2015, IONE was able to offer 16 $2,000 scholarships for registered nurses returning to school to complete their BSNs.
“As we’ve grown the License Plate Fund, we’ve been able to expand the scholarship opportunities we support,” says Mary Browning, executive director of IONE. “In 2015, we offered scholarships for RNs to go back to get their BSNs, and we’ll continue to do so in 2016 as part of an effort to address the areas of need described in the Institute of Medicine’s report on the future of nursing.”
In addition to scholarships for nursing students, IONE’s License Plate Fund helps reduce the cost of profession- al development opportunities for practicing nurses across the state.
“Through the License Plate Fund, we’re able to send 30 to 40 nurse leaders to attend the American Organization of Nursing Executives national conference each year free of charge,” says Lynn Turner, president of IONE. “And this August, we’ll be hosting a conference on shared governance. The conference would usually cost $600, but because of the success of the License Plate Fund, we can offer it to our members for $225.”
IONE’s great work has not gone unnoticed. This year, IONE received the 2016 American Organization of Nursing Executives (AONE) Affiliate Achievement Award. This award honors an affiliate that promotes nursing leadership and its influence in the areas of the advancement of nursing practice, patient safety and quality, recruitment and retention, and that can serve as a model for other state or regions with similar interests.
“When we presented on the License Plate Fund at the December AONE Chapter Leader’s meeting, we received a standing ovation,” Lynn says. “I think we’re inspiring other states to consider similar programs. But most importantly, this fund has helped us raise the quality of nurse leadership in Indiana.”