Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing held its first in-person graduation since the pandemic began in March 2020 on Friday.
During the school’s 82nd commencement exercises, Virtua Health executive Dr. Reg Blaber informed the 48 newly minted nurses that Virtua will pay for the tuition of any graduating nurse employed by Virtua who would like to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Rowan University. Many of the nurses are newly hired by Virtua, with more expected to join the not-for-profit health system.
This pilot program, called Nurturing Nurses, represents a significant investment in the next generation of South Jersey nurses, and will save each participating nurse approximately $14,000 — the current tuition price for the program.
“The world has come to appreciate nurses in a whole new way over the past two years,” said Shirley Richardson, dean of the Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing, an affiliate of Virtua Health. “We are thrilled to gather in a safe, socially distant way in order to provide these new registered nurses with a proper send-off.”
“Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing produces outstanding nurses,” said Blaber, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Virtua Health. “We want to remove cost as a potential barrier so that they can pursue an exceptional education at Rowan, experience professional growth at Virtua and apply their skills and knowledge to caring for the people of South Jersey.”
Nurturing Nurses is the first outcome of the newly expanded affiliation between Virtua Health and Rowan University. Last month, the two organizations announced their intention to collaborate on education, research and patient care.
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Nurturing Nurses will combine tuition-reimbursement packages and scholarship opportunities to cover the cost of Rowan’s RN to BSN program, which takes 12 to 15 months to complete, on average. In addition to this new class of nurses, the offer also applies to existing Virtua nurses who wish to earn their degree. The Nurturing Nurses cohort will form in early 2022, with coursework beginning in the spring.
“One of the key motivations for the Rowan and Virtua partnership is to create a pipeline of talented health care professionals,” Blaber said. “Together, we will further establish our region as a sought-after destination for receiving a rewarding education and finding a meaningful career in health care.”