Each year, 33 students will get a chance at a tuition-free nursing education at the University of Rochester’s School of Nursing through a new initiative. The program is a way to stem the region’s nursing shortage, UR Medical Center and School of Nursing officials say.
The UR Nursing Scholars Program—the first cohort begins in the fall—will reimburse all tuition costs for Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing students at the university, after students pass their licensure exam, and in exchange for committing to work at participating UR Medicine facilities for three years after graduation.
“This innovative program leverages multiple strengths of our academic medical center to address a critical community need,” says Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of URMC and dean of its School of Medicine and Dentistry. “We provide world-class nursing education programs with hands-on experience in virtually every clinical specialty area. By making education available at no cost to students who are new to nursing, we provide them with outstanding career opportunities, while helping Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals to address nurse shortages and expand access to care for our patients.”
The 12-month Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program also is a way for bachelor’s-prepared college graduates to pursue a second career in nursing. Already, it has attracted students from other fields including public health, business and education, officials say.
Among them are Sarah Cox and Joshua Billings. Cox, who worked in community engagement for the American Cancer Society and launched a pregnancy care center that offers doula services, has a previous degree in Spanish. Billings is a former case manager who helped survivors of human trafficking. Both are students in the accelerated program.
Each student cohort is guided through a rigorous yearlong immersion into nursing, including 700 hours of clinical training in med-surg, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, and other specialties at URMC, officials say.
“Our school has earned a reputation for preparing highly-skilled nurses who are ready to enter the workforce and care for patients immediately after graduation,” said Lisa Kitko, dean of the School of Nursing and vice president of URMC. “The UR Nursing Scholars program will make this outstanding education more accessible to students from our community and across the nation, helping us to recruit from groups underrepresented in nursing and create a more diverse workforce that better represents all the patients served by UR Medicine.”
The full-time Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program annually enrolls students across three cohorts. The first cohort will accept and match 10 UR Nursing Scholars with Strong Memorial Hospital and three scholars with Highland Hospital. Once accepted, students will receive funding in the form of a scholarship and a forgivable loan from the School of Nursing to cover all tuition costs.
Students accepted into the scholars program are expected to work with a career coach to explore specialties and career opportunities in nursing. They will also meet with nursing recruitment and retention offices to match their interests with an employment opportunity at participating UR Medicine facilities.
“As our UR Nursing Scholars gain on-the-job experience, they will become eligible for tuition benefits to further their nursing education and advance their careers as far as they want to go, without ever needing to leave the University of Rochester Medical Center,” says Karen Keady, vice president and chief nursing executive at URMC and assistant dean of clinical practice at the School of Nursing.
Pandemic burnout, an aging population and retiring nurses are expected to create a shortage of some 40,000 RNs in the state by 2023. UR officials believe this program is the first of its kind to combine guaranteed employment as an RN with a fully paid education for college graduates at a nationally ranked nursing school.
The School of Nursing also announced other ways to increase access to its programs:
■ Prerequisite Scholarship Program. This is a new scholarship program that covers the total tuition costs of prerequisite courses completed at the School of Nursing for students in the 12-Month Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program.
■ 24-Month Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program. This degree features the same coursework and clinical experience as the 12-month accelerated bachelor’s program with room for students to balance work and other commitments.
■ SON Tuition Grant: Together with employee tuition benefits, this offers 100 percent tuition coverage for URMC employees who enroll in select bachelor’s or master’s nursing programs.