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UT nursing program helps students get hands-on experience, aims to help recruit more nurses

UT created a faster path for nursing students to graduate. The BSN Scholars program will graduate nursing students in less time, with the same training.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee Medical Center has partnered with the College of Nursing and created the BSN Scholars program, which aims to address problems that many hospitals have with recruiting nurses.

This program is meant to create a new flow of nursing graduates. Dr. Sandy Leake, the Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at UTMC, said the BSN Scholars program is here to help.

"We know that COVID just turned the world upside down. It had a devastating impact on the hospital workforce," Dr. Leake said. "What we're doing is we're building a robust partnership, where we will have a satellite campus of the University of Tennessee College of Nursing on UT Medical Center property."

The students enrolled in this program will do all their clinical requirements within the bounds of UT Medical Center. Students will be able to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing after 17 months of studying.

The program awards students tuition from UT Medical Center, as long as they commit to working with them for at least three years after graduating. Dr. Leake said that the nurses would start out making around $26 per hour, but emphasized that is a base salary.

"We are providing substantial tuition support, in many instances, full tuition support to students who are participating in the program," Dr. Leake said. "All in exchange for a three-year service commitment."

UT is also building learning labs and a state-of-the-art simulation space, where students will have access to dedicated faculty. Students will also have mannequins to train on before they move forward to the real world.

Dr. Victoria Niederhauser, the Dean of the College of Nursing at UT, said they would still be practicing while also shadowing professionals. A traditional nursing program takes two years to complete. This new program would take about 17 months to complete.

"Under the guidance of the faculty member or the nurse preceptor, they would actually deliver patient care," Dr. Niederhauser said. "It's the same exact curriculum, the same number of clinical hours, the same types of experience."

This program is also allowing UT to add more space for additional enrollments in the nursing school. The next information session for the BSN Scholars program is this Thursday. Dr. Leake said the timing is perfect.

"There still is a tremendous interest in people going back to nursing school," Dr. Leake said. "An opportunity to fulfill their dreams and become a nurse."

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