Ascension Wisconsin, Alverno College exploring nursing school merger

Columbia College of Nursing could come under Alverno umbrella

Alverno College

Last updated on June 27th, 2019 at 10:46 am

Alverno College’s nursing school and the Ascension Wisconsin-affiliated Columbia College of Nursing could merge under a new partnership between the college and Glendale-based health system.

The two institutions announced Tuesday they have signed a letter of intent to form a new partnership that will expand Alverno’s health care programs and provide continuing education opportunities for Ascension employees.

The partnership could also involve combining the JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions, located on Alverno’s campus, with Columbia College of Nursing, located near Ascension Wisconsin’s corporate office in Glendale.

If approved, CCON’s co-educational programs would be administratively housed in Alverno’s School of Adult Learning and New Initiatives, with the McGrath School providing curricular oversight.

CCON’s history dates back to 1901. In 1909, it became part of the Columbia Hospital Corp., remaining affiliated with Columbia Hospital, which later became Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital, and now, Ascension Wisconsin. It had 122 students enrolled in 2017.

The organizations did not say what would become of CCON’s campus, located at 4425 N. Port Washington Road, under the merger. But, Patricia Varga, dean of Alverno’s Joann McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions, said a potential benefit of the merger would be Alverno, located on Milwaukee’s south side, expanding its footprint with a “north side presence.”

Under the partnership, Alverno plans to expand its existing academic degree, certificate and credential programs in health care and develop new programs. Those programs would include degrees and continuing education opportunities for Ascension Wisconsin’s employees across the state.

“This is a logical and desirable alliance for Alverno College,” said Sister Andrea Lee, president of Alverno. “Providing accessible, high-quality and affordable health care to residents of the city, region and state, especially for those with limited access to care, is a highly recognized characteristic of Alverno health care professionals and of Ascension Wisconsin associates.”

Meanwhile, Ascension will provide clinical education experiences for Alverno students, including clinical placements and career placement opportunities within its Wisconsin system.

“As an anchor in communities from Racine to Eagle River, Ascension Wisconsin is focused on providing compassionate, personalized care to all people, especially those living in poverty and who are most vulnerable,” said Bernie Sherry, ministry market executive for Ascension Wisconsin. “This alliance will build on our shared commitment to strengthen educational opportunities for the next generation of nurses, with a focus on increasing diversity in the workforce.”

The strategic alliance will not be exclusive and not affect the organization’s current business relationships, they said.

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.