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UR Medicine Admits First Cohort, Expands Tuition-Free Nursing Scholars Program

  By Nora Williamson
  Tuesday, June 6, 2023

With growing interest and persistent nursing shortages, the tuition-free nursing education program is now able to accept 120 students per year.

Rochester, NY To combat the rising nursing shortage in the region, the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and School of Nursing have announced an expansion of their pioneering UR Nursing Scholars Program. The program, offering a tuition-free nursing education in exchange for a three-year work commitment at Strong or Highland hospitals, will now accept 120 students per year, a significant increase from the previous capacity of 33 scholars. 

Kristina Santory teaching in the Accelerated Nursing Program
The UR Nursing Scholars program is designed for college graduates
with a bachelor's degree who want to pursue a new or second career in nursing. 

The decision to expand the program comes in response to the overwhelming demand since its announcement in January and the urgent need to attract new nurses to help serve the Rochester community.  

“I am absolutely thrilled about the impact we can make by expanding this program, allowing us to extend our reach and address the pressing nursing shortage more comprehensively,” said Lisa Kitko, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing and vice president of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “This program not only transforms the lives of these students but also has a profound and lasting impact on our community. As we equip a larger cohort of dedicated nurses with the skills and knowledge they need to excel, together, we can strengthen our health care system and improve access to quality care for patients."

The UR Nursing Scholars program offers a unique opportunity for college graduates with a bachelor’s degree to pursue a second career in nursing. In the upcoming fall semester, forty aspiring nurses will enroll in the University of Rochester's Accelerated Bachelor's in Nursing program, and in one year, will begin their nursing career at Strong or Highland hospitals upon graduation and successful completion of the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

“The beauty of this program is that UR Nursing Scholars can focus on finding the right professional fit within the organization where they know they will be working,” said Karen G. Keady, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, vice president & chief nursing executive at URMC and assistant dean of clinical practice at the School of Nursing.

“The UR Medicine health system provides opportunities to work in almost any clinical environment and virtually any specialty area students have a personal connection to or feel passionate about. Once these students make that transition to their first nursing job, I am confident they will find that UR Medicine is a great place to stay and advance their career.”

Jillian Kelly

“I am grateful for this opportunity and thrilled to attend a university that is committed to combating the problems we face as a society," said Jillian Kelly, a recently admitted UR Nursing Scholar who currently works as a phlebotomist at a nursing and rehabilitation center in Montgomery, New York. "I am most excited about collaborating with my classmates, and building a network of like-minded individuals who are passionate about helping those in need and making a difference in our community."

The inaugural cohort of UR Nursing Scholars has attracted students from across the United States and New York, ranging in age from 21 to 53. Nearly 40 percent of the cohort consists of individuals from underrepresented groups in nursing, bringing diverse backgrounds and experiences in health care, marketing, business, and education to the nursing program.  

Throughout the one-year accelerated program, students will immerse themselves in an intensive nursing curriculum, including 700 hours of clinical training in different specialties at the University of Rochester Medical Center and 90 hours of laboratory hours with simulation, VR and experiential learning activities at the School’s new state-of-the-art learning center.

“I am making the transition into nursing because I want to connect with people and have an immediate impact on their lives,” said Michelle Millar, PhD, who currently works as a postdoctoral associate at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry. “Having learned so much through my scientific research work, I’m excited to bring that knowledge into my connection with patients.”

Since the program’s launch, the School of Nursing has experienced a significant increase in applications to the 12-Month Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing program and is currently accepting applications for the next cohort of UR Nursing Scholars, due July 1 for the Spring 2024 semester.

To learn more about the UR Nursing Scholars program, visit

Categories: Community, Accelerated Programs, Patient Care, Clinical Experience

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