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King University News :: King University Builds Partnerships with Hospitals, Addresses Growing Nursing Shortage in Tennessee

Meeting the staffing needs of local medical facilities is a primary reason King University chose to add a four-year nursing degree to its curriculum in 1999. 

“An assessment was done in which personnel who ran health-related practices locally were queried, and it was determined that a need existed for more nurse training,” says Johanne Quinn, King’s dean of nursing and the individual who essentially developed the school’s nursing curriculum.

Since then, King has continued to develop its School of Nursing, adding a registered nurse-to-baccalaureate offering in 2003, a master’s in nursing in 2005, and a family nurse practitioner degree in 2007. In addition, the school has made its registered nurse-to-baccalaureate courses available as an online program.

While King graduated just six nursing students in 2001, it now awards diplomas to 150 nursing graduates twice each year.

“We’ve had 1,225 graduates since we started the department 14 years ago,” Quinn adds.

“Our students absolutely fill a need, and the good thing is that most of them stay locally. We hear constantly how pleased the health facilities are with our graduates.”

Building partnerships with local hospitals to create teaching opportunities as well as to provide clinical experiences for students is a significant part of the department’s mission. To that end, the university has established partnerships with five major healthcare systems within its geographic footprint – including Wellmont Health System hospitals and medical centers, Mountain States Health Alliance, LifePoint Hospitals, Covenant Health and Tennova Heathcare.

These partnerships are mutually rewarding, according to Micah Crews, King’s associate vice president of enrollment management for graduate professional studies and online programs.

“Our nursing programs offer what students need while also providing these systems with the kind of medical personnel that they are looking for,” Crews says.

Wellmont Health System was the first hospital system to support King’s nursing program mission and the relationship has endured more than a decade.

“We’ve enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the King University School of Nursing,” notes Hamlin Wilson, Wellmont’s senior vice president of human resources. “We have invested considerable resources in this program and work closely with the faculty to provide on-site clinical experiences for their students, many of whom later become Wellmont co-workers. We appreciate the opportunity to assist and are excited to continue our collaboration with the nursing school to produce well-trained students who are ready to enter the workforce.”

Although King’s nursing department was created primarily to meet local needs, it is also helping alleviate a growing shortage of nurses that is spreading nationwide. Tennessee alone is projected to have a shortage of 35,000 registered nurses by the year 2020, which will meet only 53 percent of the projected demand for care.  

“It’s important that a proactive stance be taken on issues such as the nursing shortage, which is looming in our state and across the nation,” says Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “There is no question that partnerships established between higher education institutions, such as King University, and healthcare entities are crucial to this process.”

First District State Rep. Jon Lundberg, whose district includes the Bristol, Tenn.-based university, echoes Ramsey’s sentiments. 

“King has done what schools are supposed to do to meet workforce needs,” Lundberg says. “They’re finding out what the local workforce needs and then developing programs to meet those demands. In terms of their nursing curriculum, they’re not only providing opportunities for nursing education but also helping to address a troubling nursing shortage in our region.”

To better reach populations in its footprint, the university has expanded to establish 13 teaching locations, 10 of which are situated in Tennessee – including Knoxville and Nashville.

Significantly, research surrounding the nursing shortage has also pointed to a growing need for more individuals who have four-year and advanced nursing degrees. Largely due to the emerging baby boomer population, one report from the Institute of Medicine called for increasing the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce to 80 percent and doubling the population of nurses with doctoral degrees. Currently, only 50 percent of registered nurses hold baccalaureate or graduate degrees. 

Crews believes King is playing an important role in its geographic footprint by focusing on building its partnerships and continuing to expand its nursing department.

“We’re glad to be helping to address these shortages while also making sure that our area healthcare systems have a good supply of nursing staff to fill their ranks,” he says.

Notably, King has submitted a proposal to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting organization for institutions in the South, to add a doctor of nursing practice degree in the near future. 


King University is a Presbyterian, master’s-level comprehensive university.  Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors and pre-professional degrees and concentration in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, digital media, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. For more information visit, call 800.362.0014, or email