Duke Health & Durham Public Schools Receive $29.5M Grant to Address Critical Shortage of Nurses and Other Health Care Professionals

DURHAM, North Carolina – Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina, is facing an annual shortage of more than 5,000 nurses and more than 1,200 nursing care assistant positions. The healthcare system also has hundreds of openings for other healthcare professionals, including certified medical assistants, respiratory care practitioners, medical lab scientists, clinical research coordinators, and surgical technicians.

In response to the shortage, Duke Health has been partnering with Durham Public Schools and Durham Technical Community College to train the next generation of healthcare professionals. The collaboration includes the City of Medicine Academy, which provides high school students with practical experience in various medical fields and the opportunity to graduate with professional certifications or a two-year degree.

To address the shortage, Duke Health has received a $29.5 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to provide more opportunities for students in Durham Public Schools to explore healthcare careers. With a potential shortage of 21,000 registered nurses and at least 5,000 licensed practical nurses in North Carolina by 2033, the grant aims to prepare students for well-paying jobs right out of high school.

The Middle College at Durham Tech will be transformed into an early college high school, offering students the opportunity to earn a two-year associate degree while in high school. The new high school, set to open in fall 2025, will focus on training students as nurses, surgical technologists, clinical researchers, and in other allied health careers.

The grant is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ “Student-centered, Market-driven Healthcare Education Initiative,” which aims to graduate students directly into high-demand healthcare jobs with family-sustaining wages. Another grant was awarded to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in partnership with Atrium Health for a similar healthcare high school.

Duke Health also believes in using technology strategies, such as telehealth, to reach more patients with a smaller staff. In addition to the Bloomberg grant, the healthcare system is working with Durham Tech to train students interested in becoming surgical technologists or nurses.

Beyond the Bloomberg grant school, Durham Public Schools offers various options for students to study healthcare, including dual credit healthcare classes for junior and senior students and summer programs for middle school students to explore career opportunities. By 2026, every middle school in the district will have a component of health science for students to experience as part of career and technical education.

Both Duke Health and Durham Public Schools view the new healthcare high school as an opportunity to create greater diversity within the healthcare industry and provide students with good-paying jobs right out of high school. By offering alternatives to traditional four-year degrees, the initiative aims to rewrite the narrative of success for students in the community.