Converse College is teaming up with Vanderbilt University to offer students a new five-year program that will allow them to pursue advanced nursing degrees.

Enrollees will spend three years at Converse completing general education and biology coursework followed by two years at Vanderbilt's School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn.

The program's completion will result in students earning bachelor's degrees in biology from Converse and master's degrees in nursing from Vanderbilt.

The program will launch in the fall 2012 semester.

“At a time when there is a great need for nurses across our nation, the Converse-Vanderbilt Nursing Program provides an excellent opportunity to help meet that need,” Jeff Barker, vice president for academic affairs at Converse, said in a statement.

Program officials said the program was born out of an American Association of Colleges of Nursing report that projected a shortage of nurses in the years to come fueled by the aging population of baby boomers and growth in health care services.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said nursing is expected to be the top occupation for job growth through 2018, according to program officials.

“It feels wonderful to partner with Converse — a school with such a great reputation,” said Kathy Rivers, spokeswoman for Vanderbilt's School of Nursing. “We are believers that people come into our school with different perspectives, and we believe that all of those perspectives are important. We think it will be a good match.”

Rivers said students will benefit from dividing their academic career between Converse's liberal arts environment and the large university atmosphere of Vanderbilt, which boasts one of the top health sciences curriculums in the country.

The master of nursing degrees are applicable to a number of careers, officials said. A short list includes nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nurse executives.

“We look forward to a long relationship with Converse and a partnership that shows Vanderbilt's commitment to educating the best advanced practice nurses in the country at a time when all signs point to an increased demand for these important practitioners,” Linda Norman, senior associate dean for academics at Vanderbilt, said in a statement.

Applications for the program's inaugural class will be accepted until December, Rivers said.
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