BALDWIN COUNTY, Ga. — Tiny Stephens wanted to become a nurse after she saw how well her brother was treated when she was a young girl.
"He passed from Leukemia in '96 and today is 2019, and to this day, my mother and I can still remember one of his nurses. Her name was Marla," Stephens said.
Now, she's pursuing a Masters Degree at Georgia College to become a nurse practitioner.
She sees firsthand the need for healthcare professionals in rural areas.
"It seems that in the workforce, more people just choose to go to bigger cities. The rural areas aren't glamorized," she said.
Sallie Coke, Assistant Director of Graduate Programs, is focused on changing that with a $2 million federal grant.
"It is a grant that's focused specifically on increasing healthcare providers, nurse practitioners in medically or under-served areas," Coke said.
It covers tuition costs for their graduate nursing programs if students agree to work in rural areas after graduation.
"For the Department of Public Health, it's about a $26,000 scholarship each. We are really excited to be able to do that. For the traditional student, it's about $10-$12,000," Coke said.
It will help more people like Stephens, who couldn't imagine working anywhere else.
"My passion really just lies with helping others who are under-served, cause to me that's what nursing is. I feel like nursing is a position of service," Stephens said.
The grant is from an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Coke says they've had 52 graduates over the last two years who've continued to work in rural areas both in Central Georgia and across the state.