GROVE CITY — For years, Grove City College has been able to provide students with a liberal arts education and prepare them for the next stage in life — but has had to turn away prospective students interested in a nursing career, President Paul J. McNulty said.

“We’ve been thinking about how to establish a nursing program for a few years,” McNulty said.

Although Grove City College has articulation agreements with the universities of Pittsburgh and Duquesne, those agreements involve the students going through four years at GCC for an undergraduate degree before moving on to a “rigorous” nursing program that is about 15-months long.

“We continued to think about ways that you could come out after four years with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, and Butler’s nursing program is very highly regarded, and fortunately I had some people on my team who had longstanding relationships with the folks at BC3,” McNulty said.

With talks beginning in the fall between GCC and Butler County Community College, those negotiations have finally resulted in a program that will benefit not only the two colleges, but prospective students as well.

The partnership was first announced on June 27, and will be called the “Charles Jr. and Betty Johnson School of Nursing” at Grove City. Though specifics are still being worked out, the plan is for students to enroll in Grove City College for the first and fourth year of liberal arts and science education classes, according to the press release.

“In this case our students study religion, history, the arts, literature and ethics, and those courses have a significant impact on the development of understanding people, as well as insight on how to empathize and work well with others,” McNulty said.

During the students’ second and third years in the program, they will be involved in BC3’s Shaffer School of Nursing and Allied Health, which BC3’s program Dr. Patricia Annear described as the theory and the clinical pieces of nursing.

“Mainly what they’re going to be doing at BC3 is all their nursing theory work, which will be divided into fundamentals of nursing and medical surgical nursing, maternity nursing, pediatric nursing, or whichever, and then they’ll take those skills learned in the classroom at BC3 and apply them in the hospital settings,” Annear said.

At the end of the third year, the students will have the opportunity to take the registered nurse exam and become a registered nurse. This will allow the students to possibly support themselves or gain work experience while still participating in their final year at GCC, Annear said.

“It’s very handy to do that. I got my associate’s degree, then I worked in a hospital, got my bachelor’s degree, and the hospital payed for that,” she said.

And it’s a field that is also growing, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Health and Resources and Services Administration expect that by 2022, the need for nurses will rise by 19 percent and by 2025 the number of registered nurse vacancies will surpass 1.2 million, the release states.

“This program really is an example of what it should be in higher education, where stellar institutions offer what we do best,” she said. “We’ve been doing nursing for many many years, and they’ve (GCC) been doing liberal arts for many years, so we’ve merged the best and now you’ve got a four-year program.”

The first students will be enrolled into the program at GCC in the fall of 2020, with the Charles Jr. and Betty Johnson School of Nursing initially funded by a $1 million gift from Jayne Johnson Rathburn and the Rathburn Family Foundation, in memory of her parents. In the future, McNulty said the funding could be used for potential building improvements or scholarship opportunities for students.