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Eastern receives state grant to launch nursing program

Published on March 02, 2023

Eastern receives state grant to launch nursing program

Students in Eastern’s planned BSN program will use specialized equipment such as this virtual dissection table.

The new nursing program will feature a clinical simulator at Windham Hospital.

Eastern Connecticut State University is receiving a $1.2 million grant from the Connecticut Health Horizons project, a three-year, $35 million program established by the state to address the nursing shortage in Connecticut.

The grant, announced on March 1 by Terrence Cheng, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, will fund equipment and faculty positions in Eastern’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The new major, which awaits approval by the Board of Regents of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, is scheduled to enroll its first students this coming fall 2023 semester.

Although 3,000 new nurses are needed each year in Connecticut, nursing schools in the state are graduating only 1,900 new candidates, according to the Governor’s Workforce Council. Connecticut Health Horizons data notes that the state’s nursing programs can accept only 25% of qualified students due to the lack of faculty and clinical placements.

In 2022, Gov. Ned Lamont introduced the Connecticut Health Horizons project to address the nursing shortage. The three-year initiative brings together the Office of Workforce Strategy, other state agencies, the state’s community college and state university system, the University of Connecticut, the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, and the Connecticut Hospital Association. Elements of the project include tuition assistance for low-income students, nursing school faculty recruitment and retention, and employer-higher education partnerships.

At the March 1 press conference, Cheng was joined by Kelli-Marie Vallieres, chief workforce officer of the Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategy, and other Connecticut Health Horizon partners. A total of $30.5 million in grant funds was announced for 20 public and private colleges and universities in Connecticut.

Eastern will use the $1.2 million from the state for instructional equipment and three new faculty positions beginning in academic year 2024–25.  In addition to these state funds, Eastern’s BSN program is being supported by Hartford HealthCare, which plans to construct a clinical simulation lab at Windham Hospital for use by Eastern students and faculty. In addition to renovations at the hospital, Hartford HealthCare is also providing staff to serve as adjunct faculty as well as clinical placements for Eastern’s nursing students.

“I applaud our state officials for their response to the critical nursing shortage in Connecticut and beyond,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “President Cheng’s announcement provides a crucial infusion of funds to jump start our nursing program, and we are very grateful for that support. I am also pleased that we have Hartford HealthCare as our working partner on this initiative. With their support, our students will receive important hands-on instruction as well as invaluable clinical placements as they get ready for professional nursing positions. We will not only be part of the solution to the nursing shortage, Eastern will be preparing dozens of nursing students for rewarding, meaningful careers.”

“Hartford HealthCare is pleased to work with Eastern to create a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program,” said Dr. Rocco Orlando, senior vice president and chief academic officer at Hartford HealthCare. “Connecticut faces a profound nursing shortage and this program will help alleviate that.”

Eastern’s new four-year baccalaureate degree in nursing will be cohort-based; the first group of students enrolled this coming fall will progress through the program at the same time. Courses planned for the major include Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as Human Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology, and Nutrition for Nursing. Specialty areas will include Maternal and Newborn Care Nursing, Geriatric Nursing, Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, and Community and Public Health Nursing.

In addition to science classes, courses in nursing practice and hands-on learning experiences, students in the new program will gain leadership and decision-making skills while becoming patient advocates and knowledgeable about health care disparities among vulnerable populations.

Equipment that will be used by faculty and students on Eastern’s campus includes a virtual dissection table; high fidelity simulators—manikins that mimic human physiology; specialized manikins such as trauma, birthing and pediatrics; and a skills/demonstration lab. The simulation facility being built at Windham Hospital by Hartford HealthCare will provide additional clinical training.

“Our faculty are excited about the opportunity to provide instruction and guidance to prepare students for careers as professional nurses,” said Yaw Nsiah, professor and chair of the Department of Health Sciences. “With Eastern’s expert faculty and outstanding teaching facilities, coupled with the support from our partners at Hartford HealthCare, we look forward to launching our Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree this coming fall.”

Students completing the degree will be eligible to take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Licensing Examination–RN. The program will also seek accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Connecticut State Board of Nurse Examiners. 

About the Connecticut Health Horizons Project

Connecticut Health Horizons is financed through the federal American Rescue Plan Act–Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds awarded to the State of Connecticut by the U.S. Department of the Treasury (FAIN: SLFRP0128). Connecticut Health Horizons is a collaborative partnership that includes the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, the Office of Workforce Strategy (OWS), multiple state agencies, the University of Connecticut, the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges and the Connecticut Hospital Association. For more information, visit

Written by Ed Osborn