William Woods to Establish Nursing Degree Program

New degree will be in partnership with Fulton State Hospital, help meet a regional and statewide health care need

William Woods University (WWU) is making a foray into the one of the most significant, and permanent, sectors of the U.S. economy – health care.

WWU President Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett announced that the university intends to begin offering a nursing degree beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year, in conjunction with the Fulton State Hospital. The new degree program will create a pipeline of Registered Nurse (RN) graduates to fill a significant regional and statewide healthcare need, which is a shortage of RN’s.

“Our academic mission has always stressed producing marketable graduates that are in-demand by a wide range of employers,” said President Barnett. “Establishing a nursing program at William Woods is entirely consistent with that mission. Employment needs in the health care sector, which comprises about one-sixth of the U.S. economy, are significant, and existing higher education nursing programs are unable to keep up with the demand. We are proud to partner with Fulton State Hospital to help meet this critical need.”

Almost 16 percent of nursing positions in Missouri hospitals are currently vacant, according to a study by the Missouri Hospital Association. The vacancy rate in mid-Missouri doubled in 2016 alone, to 16.2 percent. Fulton State Hospital itself currently has a nurse vacancy rate of more than 30 percent, making a partnership with WWU vital.

“We are so excited for the opportunity to partner with William Woods to support a nursing program in Fulton,” said Andy Atkinson, Chief Operating Officer of Fulton State Hospital. “I am hopeful this collaboration will not only further increase educational opportunities and resources to our employees, it will expand the nursing applicant pool for our hospital and community. I am confident that an alliance with such a reputable and revered university will positively impact the nursing shortages seen throughout Missouri.”

“This new nursing program will provide students with a real, hands-on training experience alongside some of the best mental health professionals in the state,” said Mark Stringer, Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. “The new hospital facility under construction will have modern treatment areas and be an exciting place for students to learn and provide care. William Woods University’s nursing graduates will add talent and stability to the DMH workforce.”

According to a memorandum of understanding between WWU and Fulton State Hospital, the hospital will make its educational facility available for William Woods students in the program, including use of classroom space; additional space for a simulation lab; office space for nursing faculty and staff, and access to the hospital’s library.

William Woods recently began searching for a Director of the proposed School of Nursing, which is the first step in certifying the new degree programs. The appointment of a School of Nursing Director will begin the process of assessing which specific degree programs the university will offer. Additional steps will be to gain approval for the programs from the Missouri State Board of Nursing, and designing a course curriculum for each.

“Making this investment in the substantial higher education market of health sciences is the kind of strategic initiative that has allowed our university to flourish over the past 25 years,” said President Barnett. “We are excited to add another program that will further strengthen and grow William Woods University.”

WWU has enjoyed significant growth during President Barnett’s tenure. Since her appointment in 1990, enrollment has increased from 750 to over 2,000 students; the university’s endowment has increased by nearly 250 percent, from $5.7 to $19.6 million; graduate-level, online and study abroad programs have been added; the university eliminated its long-term debt and has maintained an operating budget in the black for 15 straight years; and infrastructure and capitol improvements on the main campus in Fulton have included the construction of ten new major buildings.