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St. Luke’s Health System’s nursing school will become part of Rockhurst University in an agreement geared to meet soaring national demand for more nurses, the institutions announced Wednesday.
“We weren’t looking to make a change,” said St. Luke’s Hospital CEO Jani Johnson. “But once we realized the future growth and expansion opportunities this new affiliation would bring, we became convinced it was the right thing to do.”
The agreement is pending approval from the Higher Learning Commission and other regulatory bodies. Once it’s finalized, about 700 people enrolled in associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and certificate nursing programs will become students of the St. Luke’s College of Health Sciences at Rockhurst University.
They will continue to take classes at the St. Luke’s college building on 624 Westport Road until moving into Sedgwick Hall on the Rockhurst campus in 2022. A $23-million renovation of Sedgwick Hall is expected to begin next year.
Rockhurst already has degree programs in speech-language pathology, physical and occupational therapy and exercise science. It also offers pre-nursing coursework. But last year it lost a partnership that allowed students who take those courses to gain direct entry to Research College of Nursing, which is affiliated with the for-profit HCA Midwest hospital chain.
That partnership began 40 years ago, before Research Medical Center (and the nursing school) were bought by HCA Midwest’s parent company, Hospital Corporation of America, in 2003.
Research College of Nursing said in a news release last year that splitting from Rockhurst and becoming fully independent allowed it to offer new programs. Research College of Nursing president Thad Wilson told the Rockhurst school newspaper in February that Hospital Corporation of America required the split for financial reasons.
The new partnership with St. Luke’s is expected to allow Rockhurst to add nursing programs “more accessible to working adults and other nontraditional students,” according to a news release.
The program started in 1903 as St. Luke’s College of Nursing and is now St. Luke’s College of Health Sciences. St. Luke’s is affiliated with the Epsicopal Church, and Rockhurst is a Catholic institution. Rockhurst president Thomas Curran said that makes it a natural match.
As the population ages, more nurses are retiring and more people need nursing care.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the U.S. will need to train an average of about 200,000 new registered nurses each year from 2016 to 2026 to meet demand.