KINGSPORT – Wellmont Health System and King College will establish a school of nursing in Kingsport, a collaborative initiative to help meet the region’s need for well-trained nurses.

Wellmont and King have signed a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the Wellmont-King College School of Nursing in Kingsport. Classes are expected to begin in August.

During an afternoon announcement Thursday, the final day of National Nurses Week, officials with the health system and college said the innovative school will benefit people across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

“Our nurses are the lifeblood of our hospitals,” said Dr. Richard Salluzzo, Wellmont’s president and chief executive officer. “Ensuring we have the best-trained, best-equipped nurses available both now and in the future is essential not only to the hospitals of the Wellmont Health System but also to all the patients who depend on us for care.”

The Wellmont-King nursing school will provide third- and fourth-year nursing education programs geared to both nursing students and current registered nurses. Nursing students who have earned an associate’s degree from a two-year community college can complete their bachelor of science degree in the nursing program, while existing registered nurses will be able to enroll in an accelerated RN to BSN program. All students will participate in hands-on clinical training at Wellmont hospitals.

Nursing students who successfully complete the program will receive priority consideration for employment in Wellmont hospitals. Current Wellmont and other registered nurses, in addition to honing their professional skills and judgment, will increase their earning power and career options by obtaining their BSN degree.

“This innovative, collaborative venture between a healthcare provider and higher education will meet the demands placed on our community by the shortage of nurses,” said Dr. Gregory Jordan, president of King College. “This agreement strives to increase the quality of health care in our community by providing highly qualified nurses in the work force.”

King College is a regional leader in nursing education. One hundred percent of the school’s spring 2004 nursing graduates passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, marking the third consecutive year 100 percent of King graduates have passed the exam. King’s nursing programs are approved by the Tennessee State Board of Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

“We are fortunate to enter into this agreement with Wellmont Health System, the healthcare leader in our region,’ said Dr. Paul Percy, King’s vice president of academic affairs. “King College has been educating and training students to enter the healthcare field for more than 100 years. Our faculty and staff are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to expand the nursing program through the Wellmont-King College School of Nursing in Kingsport.

“Students of the program will benefit from the extensive experience of our faculty, an outstanding clinical training program that has resulted in a 100 percent pass rate on the NCLEX exam and a small, 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio in the clinical setting. We are honored that Wellmont so frequently hires our nurses and wants to continue expanding upon our relationship by hiring more nurses in their hospitals.”

Numerous scholarship and loan opportunities will be available for students at the nursing school. The first scholarship to be funded specifically for students at the Wellmont-King school will be the Marta Pugh Nursing Education Scholarship, established by the Wellmont Foundation in memory of the wife of Dr. Tom Pugh.

Dr. Pugh, a radiologist at Holston Valley Medical Center, is also a member of the Wellmont board of directors. His wife, who held associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, served as a long-time nursing educator before succumbing to cancer earlier this year.


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