$5 million gift doubles size and scope of novel nursing master’s program


Contact: Christine Phelan Kueter: 434-982-3312

(3-22-13) A new, $5 million commitment from Washington-area financier Bill Conway and his wife Joanne will transform the Clinical Nurse Leader master's degree program at the University of Virginia School of Nursing and open new opportunities for students.

It will also exert an important impact on the nursing workforce of tomorrow as it widens the enrollment capacity and diversity of this novel program, geared for individuals looking to pivot into nursing from other professions -- like Charlotte Cowdry (pictured on the left, who has a BA in sociology and Spanish from Dickinson College) and Jenny Mooney (at right, who came to the program with a BA in biology and a minor in anthropology from Colby College), CNL students who are currently assisting Dr. Lacey Colligan with outcomes research in UVA’s Medical Center's neonatal ICU.

The gift, to be made over five years, will fund need-based scholarships for students in the Clinical Nurse Leader Program and provide faculty support and operational funding for the program. Fortified by the Conways’ gift, the program will double in size from 48 to 96 students.

The Clinical Nurse Leader program is the only master’s entry program in Virginia that enables students with a bachelor’s degree in another field to enter the nursing profession on a fast track. The accelerated, 24-month master’s degree program prepares graduates to provide high-quality, safe, and compassionate care that is evidence based and to lead quality improvement efforts for optimal outcomes with patients, families, communities, and systems.

“We are very grateful for this generous gift that will enable us to create more 21st-century nurses who can provide superior care to patients and families,” said Dorrie Fontaine, Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing, dean of the U.Va. School of Nursing and associate chief nursing officer at U.Va. Medical Center. “Through this program, Clinical Nurse Leader students receive special training in leadership, inter-professional education and resiliency that allows them to thrive in the nursing field – and the skillset to inspire their peers and colleagues to do the same.”

The new Conway Scholars Program will address the unique financial needs of Clinical Nurse Leader students and foster a more diverse student population. While the program’s curriculum offers an intense, cost-effective and efficient way to create new master’s-prepared nurses, it prevents students from holding part-time jobs. That creates the prospect of accumulating debt, which may provide a deterrent to those with few financial resources. The Conway Scholars Program will open the door to a nursing career for students in financial need, including those who may be traditionally underrepresented in the nursing profession. Creating diversity in the student body will eventually diversify the profession to better reflect the multiplicity generally found across health care teams and patient populations.

“It’s increasingly critical that our nurses look like, and relate to, the people they’re working with and treating,” Fontaine said.

In addition to offering opportunities to students with financial need, the Conway Scholars Program carries a commitment to underserved and vulnerable patient populations. Every Conway Scholar will be expected to complete a minimum of 45 hours of community service at a designated area of high need.

To keep pace with the increased Clinical Nurse Leader enrollment, the Conway gift will also support the recruitment of four to six full-time, tenure-track professors.

“The Conway Scholars program helps the University and the school fulfill our mission of graduating students who will impact the world for the better,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “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.”

In years three to five, the gift will support expansion of the Clinical Nurse Leader program to establish a new partner clinical site in Virginia, specifically targeting areas with vulnerable populations. This, in turn, is expected to increase Clinical Nurse Leader enrollment from these regions.

“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,” Bill Conway said, “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.”

Conway is co-chief executive and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, an international financing firm based in Washington, D.C.

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About the U.Va. School of Nursing
Founded in 1901, the University of Virginia School of Nursing is ranked among the top 2 percent of nursing schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Of the 730 students currently enrolled, 369 are undergraduates and 361 are graduate students. In-state tuition and fees – $12,214 for undergraduate students and $15,680 for graduate students – represent an unparalleled value for a nursing education. Under the leadership of Dean Dorrie Fontaine, the school’s goal is not only to prepare students for practice in the structurally and technologically complex 21st-century health care system, but also to create nurses who are resilient, collaborative and compassionate caregivers for the patients and families they serve.

About the Clinical Nurse Leader Program
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing first conceived the Clinical Nurse Leader role in 2003 in response to a landmark Institute of Medicine study on medical errors and the projected long-term shortage of nurses. U.Va.’s Clinical Nurse Leader program began in August 2005 and is a full-time, 24-month accelerated master’s program for students who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. Unlike other degree programs, Clinical Nurse Leader clinical training uses an apprenticeship model for the 1,000 clinical hours of the program. Instead of receiving training in groups, each student is mentored one-to-one by a clinical preceptor at the U.Va. Medical Center and a host of other clinical sites. U.Va. is the only master’s-entry CNL program in Virginia and Washington, D.C., and admission to the program is very competitive. For the most recent year, the program received more than five applicants for each of the 24 spaces in the entering CNL class.