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ETSU, Wellmont partner to expand nursing education
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KINGSPORT (Aug. 31, 2016) – East Tennessee State University and Wellmont Health System are partnering to expand the university’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program in Kingsport and increase the number of nurses in the community.

The new ETSU-Holston Valley Medical Center Accelerated BSN Program is underway, with 20 inaugural students taking classes this fall semester. The program is expected to welcome 20 additional students into the fold each fall and spring semester.

Through the partnership, ETSU will provide faculty for all classroom instruction, which will take place at the ETSU at Kingsport Downtown campus. Wellmont will provide faculty for all clinical training and instruction, which will primarily take place at Holston Valley. Both entities will be involved in other aspects of student training, including interprofessional education and simulation.

“We are well aware of the acute nursing shortage in the Tri-Cities area and recognize the critical need for educated nursing personnel to sustain the delivery of quality health care to the residents of the region,” said Dr. Wendy Nehring, dean of ETSU’s College of Nursing. “Through this partnership, we are able to expand the number of nursing students able to attend ETSU, which will ultimately lead to more well-educated nursing professionals in our region. We are thrilled to be partnering with Wellmont to be able to do this.”

As a result of the program, 20 additional students were able to start the nursing program this fall who otherwise would not have been admitted due to a lack of capacity.

Before students are accepted into the accelerated BSN program they must complete prerequisite course work. Once they have entered the program, they are on track to complete their education and training requirements in five semesters and then will be ready to take the state exam to become a registered nurse.

As a part of the partnership, Wellmont will give graduates of the program priority consideration for nursing and nurse tech jobs at its facilities.

Dr. Lisa Smithgall, Holston Valley’s vice president of patient care services and the program’s co-director, said this venture is an excellent opportunity to showcase the importance of serving patients in a hospital.

“Holston Valley and other Wellmont hospitals have been blessed with a history of outstanding nursing care that has improved patients’ lives,” said Smithgall, who earned her doctorate degree in nursing from ETSU. “Through their hard work and dedication, hospital nurses play an essential role in our care model by working with patients who are acutely ill. We are excited to collaborate with ETSU to strengthen the pipeline of nurses by creating this avenue for students to receive their clinical training at Holston Valley.”

To assist the students with their hands-on experience at Holston Valley, the hospital will rely on the expertise of 10 nurses who have earned their master of science in that field, as well as about 40 other highly skilled nurses who provide patient care at the hospital. The hospital will provide a four-room simulation lab and an assessment lab, both on the second floor, which will enable students to further develop their skills as emerging professionals.

In addition to their training at Holston Valley, nursing students will receive acute care and long-term care training at Wexford House, a 174-bed Wellmont skilled nursing facility on John B. Dennis Highway.

“As a proud community member for more than 80 years, Holston Valley is committed to advancing the nursing profession by supporting the next generation of caregivers in Kingsport,” said Tim Attebery, the hospital’s president. “ETSU, Holston Valley and Wellmont have worked together for decades to strengthen the quality of care in our region, and this initiative is an excellent way for us to give back to a community that has extensively supported our efforts. Holston Valley stands behind our innovative and compassionate nurses, and this newest partnership recognizes the remarkable work they perform every day.”

ETSU and Wellmont officially announced the partnership at a press conference held Wednesday at Holston Valley. There, Dr. Wilsie Bishop, ETSU’s chief operating officer and vice president for Health Affairs, recognized the importance of educating nurses to work in the region.

“As a nurse myself, I know all too well the significant role this profession plays in the health care landscape,” she said. “Today, we are taking yet another step to ensure that patients of the region continue to receive excellent care, which is one of the many things that makes Northeast Tennessee such a great place to call home.”

For more information on the new program, contact the ETSU College of Nursing, at 423-439- 4578 or visit or

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