An agreement, signed at an event with Gov. Bob McDonnell, provides a pathway to receive a bachelor's or master's from the School of Nursing for those with an associate's degree from an accredited nursing program at a Virginia community college.
By Kurtis Hiatt
In what Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell hailed as a “great step forward in higher education,” the George Washington University on Monday announced that its School of Nursing will guarantee admission to students who have received an associate's degree from an accredited nursing program at a Virginia community college.
Signed ceremonially at an event Monday in Richmond with the governor and GW President Steven Knapp, the agreement bridges the gap between an associate’s and bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing by allowing graduates from an accredited nursing program at a Virginia community college who meet certain requirements to enroll in GW’s nursing program, where they take online courses and fulfill clinical requirements right in the communities in which they already serve.
“This will enable Virginia students to actually pursue their bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing while at the same time continuing to work in their communities, which will contribute to the longtime viability and sustainability of their efforts on behalf of the commonwealth,” Dr. Knapp said. “I look forward to seeing this program grow and become a model not only for the commonwealth but also nationally.”
Gov. McDonnell said the program will help address the nursing shortage in the state, add to economic development, create more job opportunities for Virginians, strengthen health care and aid in his mission of helping residents achieve higher-level degrees.
“It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve personally been involved here in a long time in public service,” he said.
The partnership also addresses the primary-care shortage in rural and underserved communities; it’s difficult for those in rural parts of the state to pursue higher-level degrees. That was a crucial factor in the pilot program GW established last April with Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Va., said Lancaster President Richard Teaff, who also attended the signing. Dr. Teaff noted he was confident the partnership would become a model for the rest of the state’s community colleges.
The program, which can be completed in four semesters for a bachelor’s or three years for a master’s, offers specializations in adult-gerontology practitioner, family practice nurse practitioner and nurse-midwifery.
“It’s a very efficient, effective program,” said School of Nursing Dean Jean Johnson.
The agreement adds to GW’s 50-year presence in Virginia. The School of Nursing is based at the university’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Loudoun County—a deliberate decision, Dr. Knapp said, to realize partnerships like this, particularly in fields around science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health.
Dr. Johnson said she expects roughly 40 students will enroll in the program this fall; she hopes it will grow to 100-plus in the years to come.
“This is a great day for the community college system and hopefully for George Washington—my favorite president,” Gov. McDonnell said.