The University of Tennessee Medical Center and The University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Nursing Announce Nursing Scholars Program

Set to enroll its first class in fall 2023, the program will give UT Medical Center a steady pipeline of top nursing graduates to employ while increasing enrollment in UT Knoxville’s College of Nursing.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing are partnering to create a new undergraduate nursing program at a satellite campus adjacent to UTMC. The Nursing Scholars Program is a robust academic–practice partnership that will offer nursing students an opportunity to learn and train inside UTMC, the region’s academic medical center.

According to Sandy Leake, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at UTMC, students accepted into the program will attend class and complete their clinical rotations at UTMC with access to an onsite learning lab and simulation center at the satellite campus, which will be located in the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. The program will have the same accreditation standards and follow the same mission, vision, values, and honor code as the college’s existing programs.

“Students in the Nursing Scholars Program will have scholarship tuition from UTMC with a three-year work commitment post-graduation. All classes will be taught by College of Nursing faculty whose positions will also be funded by UTMC,” said Leake.

Victoria Niederhauser, dean of the College of Nursing, explained that the program and partnership give the college an opportunity to increase the number of students who graduate with a BSN.

“Through the Nursing Scholars Program, graduating an increased number of the best and brightest baccalaureate nursing students will contribute to our highly qualified and educated workforce of nurses serving the East Tennessee region,” said Niederhauser.

Niederhauser said that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the health care workforce was facing challenges due to burnout and other factors. The pandemic has exacerbated those challenges, leading to national health care staffing shortages. According to a nursing workforce analysis in Health Affairs, the total supply of registered nurses in the U.S. decreased by more than 100,000 from 2020 to 2021 — the largest drop over the past four decades.

“This mutually beneficial partnership addresses the complex and unprecedented nursing shortage that has impacted not only our region but the entire nation, and we are thrilled to be building upon our long-standing relationship with UT’s College of Nursing to make this program a reality,” said Leake. “The opportunity for these nursing students to receive their education and training in the very medical center they will hold their first RN position fosters confidence as they transition from academic learning into working full-time in the clinical setting.”

Leake said that nurses make up approximately a third of a typical hospital workforce, with RNs being essential to patient care and high-quality outcomes. UTMC has been focused on creating innovative solutions to address the unprecedented nursing workforce challenges in East Tennessee. The Nursing Scholars Program will provide college juniors with an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing curriculum, spanning 15 months, with the first class expected to graduate in fall 2024. When the program reaches full capacity, it is estimated that 100 additional nurses a year will graduate with a BSN from UT. Those nurses will go on to work directly at the bedside at UTMC.

“We are very excited about this collaborative partnership with the University of Tennessee’s College of Nursing and believe the Nursing Scholars Program is a unique model for the country as it strategically creates a consistent conduit to increase the number of BSN nurses who will provide the highest quality of care to our regional community,” said Joseph R. Landsman Jr., president and chief executive officer of UTMC. “The Nursing Scholars Program will help elevate academic excellence at the University of Tennessee Medical Center and its partnering institutions as well as in the nursing industry.”

“Through this innovative new program, our nursing students will graduate with the skills and experience they need to make an immediate impact for their patients and their community,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman. “This program is an example of how UT Knoxville, the state’s flagship land-grant university, works with partners like UT Medical Center to expand access to education and meet industry and workforce needs.”


About the University of Tennessee Medical Center

The mission of the University of Tennessee Medical Center, a Magnet-recognized hospital also certified by the Joint Commission as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, is to serve through healing, education and discovery. UTMC is a 710-bed not-for-profit academic medical center, with a regional network of primary care and specialty care physicians and practices as well as outpatient regional health centers and urgent care locations throughout its 21-county primary service area. The medical center — the region’s ACS-verified Level I Trauma Center and state-designated regional perinatal referral center with a Level III private room NICU — is one of the largest employers in Knoxville. UTMC features nine Centers of Excellence, including the Brain and Spine Institute, Cancer Institute, Emergency and Trauma Center, Heart Lung Vascular Institute, Orthopaedic Institute, Center for Complex Medicine, Center for Perioperative Medicine, Primary Care Collaborative, and Center for Women and Infants. Visit for more information.

About the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing is a catalyst for optimizing health through nurse-led care by integrating education, practice, research and technology. The college is nationally ranked and internationally recognized for its diverse and comprehensive educational programs, highlighted by innovative simulation, interprofessional collaboration, research and community outreach. Visit for more information.