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Villanova Nursing Awarded Conway Innovation Challenge Gift from Bedford Falls Foundation to Pilot an Accelerated MSN Degree to Create a U.S. Clinical Educator Surge

Innovative Program Design Connects Academic-Healthcare Partners, Villanova Nursing and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to Develop Stream of Clinical Educators and Impact Nursing Shortage  

The Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing (FCN) announces it has received $250,000 from Bedford Falls Foundation in response to its Conway Innovation Challenge.  FCN has previously received three gifts from the Bedford Falls Fund.  The challenge gift, which required additional donor support of $150,000, is to develop an innovative pilot program to increase enrollment of undergraduate nursing students or graduate students preparing to become nursing faculty to ultimately develop more registered nurses in light of the national nursing shortage. FCN will develop and implement an accelerated Clinical Faculty Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree that reduces the time to completion by 50%. Further funding may be available if the pilot is successful.

The challenge was put forth to the 10 nursing schools that are supported by philanthropists William “Bill” Conway Jr., co-founder of The Carlyle Group, and his wife, Joanne. The Conways have given millions to support nursing education and scholarships to address the nation’s nursing workforce shortage. John DeLuca, a 1952 alumnus of Villanova who has supported second degree students earning a bachelor of science in nursing through a scholarship in his wife’s name, generously provided additional gift support.

“We know that expanding the supply of nursing educators brings more nurses to our health care system which demands their talent. Fueling this innovation pilot from Villanova’s Fitzpatrick College of Nursing provides a needed boost to addressing this national crisis,” notes Bill Conway.

The FCN plan builds on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s 2022 recommendation to develop partnerships between academic nursing and health systems to address the nursing shortage. The initiative offers a novel model to address the shortage and enhance the retention of nurses by partnering with health systems to deliver a pipeline of students working as clinical nurses. Currently, FCN has a partnership commitment from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and is recruiting others. CHOP is recruiting its clinical nurses for the program who, after graduation, will hold joint appointments as clinical instructors in academe and clinical practice.

“We are grateful for the Conways and this gift. They have shown yet again, in a very generous way, their dedication to the nursing profession and the health of our country. We are energized to create this new pilot program with our long-time partner, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and future partners to come,” explains Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN, Connelly Endowed Dean and Professor.

CHOP’s Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Paula Agosto, MHA, RN, agrees, noting, “Villanova Nursing’s forward-thinking answer to the Conway Challenge is an engaging career choice for our clinical nursing staff and a win-win solution for our broader hospital-academic partnership.”

The Clinical Faculty MSN degree will leverage Villanova’s national expertise in nursing education to develop a curriculum focused on the competencies clinical faculty need to be outstanding nurse educators. This program will feature an innovative online learning model with in-person components such as a summer intensive focused on building expertise in simulation methodology, an urgently needed element in the role development of clinical faculty.

The program will be modeled after executive education programs that cater to working professionals. This level of support will enable clinical nurses to complete the program and remain employed full-time. The program will also serve as a pipeline for nursing PhD programs; enrolled students who discover a passion for nursing education will be able to transfer credits into a nursing PhD program.

FCN will pilot this program over two years with one cohort of 10 students. If successful, this program could eventually enroll larger cohorts and be replicated by other schools of nursing, potentially educating thousands of new clinical faculty members.