Partnership brings nursing school option to Grand Rapids

Cornerstone University said prospective students have been asking the college about a nursing program for years.

Shawn Newhouse, vice president for traditional undergraduate academics at the Grand Rapids-based nondenominational Christian university, said the college now has a way to offer part of the program without securing the necessary accreditation for a full bachelor’s degree.

A new academic partnership with University of Detroit Mercy, a private Catholic university in Detroit, provides Cornerstone students with a two-year Associate of Science in health services and, upon completion, guaranteed enrollment in the McAuley School of Nursing at UDM, where students will complete their Bachelor of Science in nursing.

The cohort-based program will accept up to 20 students per year beginning this fall at Cornerstone’s main campus, 1001 East Beltline Ave. NE.

“We know that people want to come to Cornerstone but have made other choices based on the fact they want to study nursing and we don’t have that program,” Newhouse said. “We want to provide our students with market-sensitive academic programs that fit the traditional job industries, as well as those that are quickly expanding.”

She pointed to recent estimates indicating by 2020, there will be a shortage of 1.2 million nurses.

Cornerstone President Joseph Stowell said the partnership with UDM is a good fit for both institutions.

“Through this partnership, nursing students have access to the strengths of both organizations — Detroit Mercy’s tradition of academic and clinical excellence, along with CU’s recognized and resolute Christ-centered approach to critical thinking and the health sciences,” Stowell said.

Newhouse said UDM’s values are similar to Cornerstone’s.

“They care about service and reaching under-served populations,” she said. “They align with us very well in terms of the mission of our two institutions.”

Another key factor, Newhouse said, is that clinical placements for nursing students are hard to secure in West Michigan because of stiff competition, but the “Detroit area offers a plethora of clinical opportunities.”

Cornerstone students transitioning into the UDM nursing program will have the opportunity for clinical placements at more than 15 health care agencies in the Detroit area in a variety of settings, including pediatric, obstetric, mental health, community and medical-surgical.

Existing faculty members will teach the associate degree classes at Cornerstone, and although the college may have to increase the number of sections available per course to meet demand, Newhouse said the school does not plan to hire additional faculty, yet.

The college hired a nursing coordinator, Lori DeWitt, who is a registered nurse, to oversee the students in the program, offering academic support and ensuring their credits transfer smoothly.

DeWitt said the program will consist of courses that “are fairly standard for all pre-nursing (curricula).”

“The students would take a general cellular biology class, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, general chemistry, introductory psychology, developmental psychology, sociology, a public speaking course, college algebra and statistics, and epidemiology,” she said.

“Students would also take some required Cornerstone classes, such as Old and New Testament studies.”

Upon graduation from the program at Cornerstone and UDM, students will take the NCLEX examination to become registered nurses.

Julie Lepzinski, chief operating officer and senior vice president of the Spectrum Health Medical Group, a nursing graduate from University of Detroit Mercy and a graduate of Cornerstone’s health care MBA program, said the nursing partnership will give graduates a “strong academic foundation.”

“These graduates will be well-prepared to serve our community,” she said. “When we attract students to Grand Rapids for their nursing education with this new program, we are more apt to keep them as part of our local or Michigan medical workforce upon graduation. It’s a win-win for all.”

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