SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A program designed to assist paramedics in the pursuit of higher degrees online through Saint Mary of the Woods College has been given a boost of funding in the form of a $100,000 donation.

Monday, Union Health Systems officials presented the first installment of what will be a quarter of a million-dollar contribution delivered over three years.

The money will go toward an online degree program designed to allow paramedics the opportunity to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing while remaining employed. According to the school, a cohort of 24 students is currently enrolled and began their classes in January. The added funding from Union Health Systems will allow a second cohort to be enrolled and begin classes in August of this year.

Some of the money will go toward adding more faculty members to the program as well.

Union officials said they hope the program will assist in resolving the shortage of nurses in the Wabash Valley.

“Union Health is excited to support the paramedic-to-Bachelor of Nursing program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, which will help increase the supply of nurses serving our patients at Union Health,” said Steve Holman, president, and chief executive officer of Union Health.

In response to the gift, SMWC will rename its nursing skills lab to the Union Health Nursing Skills Lab.

“Union Health has been a great clinical placement for our students since the start of our undergraduate nursing program,” Marcia Miller, Ph.D., RN, dean, division of Nursing and Sciences said. “We see this innovative online BSN offering as a way to meet the career goals of paramedics and provide more professional nurses, as well as provide these students with a path to an advanced practice graduate degree.”