University of Virginia officials will use a $5 million gift to double the size of a program that allows people with college degrees in other fields to get a master’s in nursing in two years.
The nursing school will announce the five-year commitment from Washington, D.C.-area financier Bill Conway and his wife, Joanne, today.
With the gift, UVa’s clinical nurse leader program will go from 48 to 96 students.
The program takes those with experience in other fields and trains them to be nurses, with an emphasis on the skills needed to fix the health care system, such leadership, teamwork and identifying healthcare problems from a systems point of view, said Dorrie Fontaine, dean of the nursing school. The program began in 2005, she said.
“We’ve had people who’ve made film documentaries, religion majors, [sociologists], ...” Fontaine said.
There’s even a former Chicago lawyer now working as a nurse at the UVa Medical Center, she said.
“They come in very, very differently than the 18 year olds come into nursing,” Fontaine said. “They are a joy to teach. They’re the future.”
The gift will go in part to fund the Conway Scholars program, which will help support poorer students. The clinical nurse leader program is short because it’s intensive to the point that it prevents participants from holding even part-time jobs, according to UVa officials. The scholars program will help increase diversity in nursing, and scholars will perform community service in high-needs areas, officials said.
“The Conway Scholars program helps the university and the school fulfill our mission of graduating students who will impact the world for the better,” UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan said in a news release. “These clinical nurse leader students will be actively engaged in improving the health of individuals and their communities, and lending energy and support to an expanding profession that needs compassionate, exceptionally educated individuals like never before.”
The money will allow Fontaine to hire four to six new fulltime faculty members. She said faculty members are one of the biggest barriers to expanding nursing schools in general.
Officials are also looking to expand the program to another site in a few years, and would love to speak with potential partners in other areas of the state, Fontaine said.
This is the biggest gift the nursing school has ever received, aside from the building it sits in, Fontaine said. She called the gift, “really, really tremendous.”
“My wife and I believe that, with the high demand for nurses, people who have these degrees will always be able to get secure, well-paying jobs,” said Bill Conway, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, in a news release, “We are glad to make this investment at the University of Virginia, which will help create more new nurses and remove some of the financial barriers to entering the profession.”