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

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 build 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, King has made the registered nurse-to-baccalaureate courses available as an online program.

While the School 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, King has established partnerships with five major healthcare systems within its geographic footprint – including Wellmont Health System, 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 kinds of medical personnel they are looking for,” Crews says. 

Although King’s nursing department was created mainly to meet local needs, it is also helping alleviate a growing shortage of nurses that is spreading nationwide. Notably, Virginia has fewer nurses than most states, 624 per 100,000 residents; the national average is 746. And the federal Health Resources and Services Administration has noted that Virginia fell from 40th to 45th among states in nurses per capita from 2004 to 2008. 

The shortage is expected to worsen as the population ages — 16 percent of Virginians are projected to be 65 or older in 2028. And the federal Affordable Care Act could bring up to 1 million more people into the medical system. The nurse population is aging as well. The average age of registered nurses in Virginia is 47. By 2014, half of Virginia’s registered nurses will be 65 or older.

“King University has done what schools are supposed to do to meet workforce needs,” notes First District State Rep. Jon Lundberg, whose district includes the Bristol, Tenn.-based university. “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, King has expanded to establish 13 teaching locations, three of which are situated in Southwest Virginia. One site is at Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands – a LifePoint Hospitals facility – where many working registered nurses have enrolled in King’s RN-to-baccalaureate program.

“The convenience of having programs offered right here on site has made our staff want to make the commitment to continue on with their education,” says Sharon Musick, medical surgical director at Clinch Valley. “For us, their programs are helping (divert) the shortage in terms of better educated nurses.” 

Significantly, research surrounding the nursing shortage has also pointed to a growing need for more individuals to have four-year and advanced nursing degrees. One report issued by 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 partnerships and continuing to build 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.

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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 www.king.edu, call 800.362.0014, or email admissions@king.edu.