Story by Barry McNamara / Photos by Kent Kriegshauser  |  Published May 09, 2024

‘An Amazing Opportunity for Monmouth Students’

Monmouth College, OSF HealthCare enter partnership to start innovative 3+1 nursing program on campus.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – When Dr. Ralph Velazquez Jr. ’79 was a Monmouth College student in the 1970s, he recalled that his classmates who wanted to go into nursing had to leave campus early.

DR. RALPH VELAZQUEZ JR. '79: What an amazing opportunity for Monmouth students. They'll be doing i... DR. RALPH VELAZQUEZ JR. ’79: “What an amazing opportunity for Monmouth students. They'll be doing it all right here on this beautiful campus and enjoying their experience at a residential college.” “They were only at Monmouth two years before they had to leave for Rush University (in Chicago),” said Velazquez, the system chief medical officer of OSF HealthCare and vice chair of the Monmouth Board of Trustees. “Many regretted having to leave.”

Thanks to a letter of commitment signed May 9 by Monmouth President Clarence Wyatt and officials from Peoria, Illinois-based OSF, students pursuing a career in nursing will be able to stay on campus all four years.

Monmouth and OSF HealthCare’s innovative 3+1 nursing program, which will begin in fall 2025 pending final approval from relevant accrediting bodies, will combine Monmouth’s residential college experience with the Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing’s excellent curriculum and regional healthcare facilities.

The partnership will allow students to earn two bachelor degrees in four years, both on the Monmouth campus.

For their first three years, students will be enrolled in an accelerated Monmouth program in either biology, biopsychology, or health science and human movement. In their fourth year, students will be enrolled in an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing degree offered by the Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing on the Monmouth campus.

“What an amazing opportunity for Monmouth students,” said Velazquez as he spoke at the ceremony announcing the partnership. “They’ll be doing it all right here on this beautiful campus and enjoying their experience at a residential college. This is very special to me, and I couldn’t be prouder today to be here to see this come to fruition.”

The best of both worlds

OSF HealthCare College of Health Sciences President Melinda Cooling and Monmouth College President Clarence Wyatt... OSF HealthCare College of Health Sciences President Melinda Cooling and Monmouth College President Clarence Wyatt speak during the May 9 announcement of the 3+1 nursing program between Monmouth and OSF HealthCare.Velazquez was not the only speaker to make note of “the best of the both worlds” dynamic of the partnership. In his remarks at the ceremony, OSF HealthCare Chief Executive Officer Bob Sehring called the partnership “a model of how institutions of higher learning and public and private organizations can combine to provide vital opportunities for students.”

Sehring noted that the partnership is not only a win-win for Monmouth College, its students and OSF, but also for future hospital patients throughout the state.

“Students will not only receive two degrees in four years, but they will also help meet the demands for nurses, not only in this region, but throughout Illinois,” he said.

Check out pictures from the signing of the the letter of commitment.

Sehring cited a study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, which projected the state will have a shortage of 15,000 registered nurses by 2025. The institute found that 55% of the nursing workforce in Illinois is 55 or older with another 27% of nurses considering retirement in the next five years.

“The state is not educating enough nurses to fill the need,” said Sehring. “Innovative solutions are needed, because the status quo is not sustainable. We’re looking forward to the fruits of this partnership in the coming years.”

A true team effort

CHARLENE AARON: The excellent 94% pass rate of Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing gradua... CHARLENE AARON: “The excellent 94% pass rate” of Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing graduates on the National Council Licensure Examination is several percentage points higher than the state average. In his remarks, Wyatt discussed the process of turning the idea into a reality. He initially worked on a proposal with Lisa DeKezel, the chief executive officer of OSF’s facilities in Monmouth and Galesburg. Soon, he began regular talks with OSF HealthCare College of Health Sciences President Melinda Cooling. She and Wyatt served as the co-hosts of the ceremony, which drew a crowd of more than 100 people in the Mellinger Center of Monmouth’s Center for Science and Business.

“The outcome of this effort is even better than I could have imagined when I began conversations with people at OSF,” said Wyatt.

Listen to President Wyatt discuss the 3+1 nursing program on an interview on WMOI-FM/WRAM-AM.

And speaking of outcomes, OSF HealthCare guarantees a job to graduates of its BSN program who pass the National Council Licensure Examination.

Charlene Aaron, president of the Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing, referred to “the excellent 94% pass rate” of her college’s graduates on the examination, which is several percentage points higher than the state average.

Aaron also praised Wyatt for the “vision, perseverance and leadership” he showed to help bring the partnership to the finish line.

Appropriately, the ceremony came right in the middle of National Nurses Week. In 1993, the American Nurses Association established May 6-12 as the permanent dates for the week, with May 12 marking the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Listen to highlights from the May 9 ceremony on the ‘Monmouth College Conversations’ podcast.

Monmouth College and OSF HealthCare officials sign a letter of commitment to bring a 3+1 nursing program to campu... Monmouth College and OSF HealthCare officials sign a letter of commitment to bring a 3+1 nursing program to campus. From left: Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing President Charlene Aaron, Monmouth President Clarence Wyatt and OSF HealthCare Chief Executive Officer Bob Sehring. Looking on is OSF HealthCare System Chief Medical Officer and Monmouth Board of Trustees Vice Chair Ralph Velazquez Jr. ’79.

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