10 Best Nursing Schools in Kentucky – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

Kentucky is one of the states that’s actually anticipating a surplus of nurses. If a 2014 report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proves to be correct, then the nursing surplus in the Bluegrass State should amount to more than 16,000 by 2025. One reason for this is that the average age of nurses in Kentucky is only 40, which means that there won’t be a huge retirement-associated exodus any time soon. That doesn’t mean that graduates of accredited nursing schools in Kentucky will be struggling to find jobs, though. Larger Kentucky hospitals typically have a nursing position vacancy rate between 10 and 40 percent, and that shortage is particularly acute in critical care units. Hospitals are offering incentives like signing bonuses and student loan repayments in order to recruit and retain nurses.



(After closely assessing all nursing schools approved by the Kentucky State Board of Nursing, based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the best accredited nursing schools in Kentucky offering BSN programs.)

1. University of Kentucky, Lexington

About UK College of Nursing: The College of Nursing at the University of Kentucky was founded in 1957 in response to the state’s nursing shortage. That shortage continues to this very day, so part of UK Nursing’s mission is to educate nurses who will be the next generation of bedside caregivers, nursing researchers, and health care policymakers throughout the Bluegrass State. The nursing school is housed in the university’s Chandler Medical Center, which is located in the heart of downtown Lexington.

The college’s 10,000-square foot Clinical Simulation and Learning Center is the only simulation center in the Bluegrass State accredited through the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. This facility contains replicas of acute care, intensive care, and neonatal intensive care hospital suites and is equipped with computerized manikins and task trainers that can be programmed to mimic any number of illnesses and chronic health conditions. Once they master the fundamentals of nursing care, students go on to clinical rotations at UK HealthCare—ranked the number one hospital in Kentucky by U.S. News & World Report—as well as at other hospitals, clinics, and community agencies throughout the greater Lexington area.

Financial Aid: The College of Nursing offers nearly 50 endowed scholarships in support of its undergraduate and graduate students. Filling out and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may qualify you for additional state and federal financial aid.

2. Bellarmine University, Louisville

About Donna and Allan Lansing School of Nursing and Clinical Sciences: Bellarmine University was founded in 1950 by the Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, but it accepts students from many different religious backgrounds. The Donna and Allan Lansing School of Nursing and Clinical Sciences prepares students to look at health care delivery from a global perspective. This is an excellent nursing school in KY for anyone to attend who’s seriously interested in tackling health care disparities and who wants to devote his or her career to improving health care outcomes for members of underserved communities.

Lansing’s nursing students mingle closely with students in other Lansing departments such as radiation therapy, respiratory therapy, and medical laboratory science. Nursing students hone their skills in a state-of-the-art simulation center. Bellarmine arranges clinical rotations with more than 100 health care providers in the greater Louisville area; partners include not only hospitals and clinics but also community agencies such as the Jewish Community Center, the Louisville Metro Health Department, and the MUSCL Senior Wellness Center.

Financial Aid: Bellarmine has designated seven of its endowed scholarships specifically for nursing students. The school also maintains an active list of external nursing scholarships for which Lansing students are welcome to apply. Students with sufficient financial need are also invited to submit a FAFSA form, which may qualify them for loans and grants from state and federal funding sources.

3. Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond

About Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Department at EKU: Eastern Kentucky University was founded in 1874 as a teachers’ training school. The Military Times and Forbes Magazine have singled out this university for special commendation. EKU understands that one of the most important reasons why you’re exploring nursing as an option is because it promises you a stable, financially rewarding future. EKU’s Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Department will lay the educational groundwork for a successful career that you can take in many different directions. EKU’s nursing department is a particularly popular choice with members of the armed forces who are participating in Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Programs.

Nursing is one of the programs that’s administered through EKU’s College of Health Sciences along with medical laboratory science, health service administration, and public health, and nursing students may share experiential learning opportunities with colleagues from these departments. Classroom learning is augmented by simulation experiences, which provide an orderly environment where students can learn necessary clinical skills without jeopardizing the safety of live patients. Clinical rotations are scheduled at hospitals, ambulatory care clinics and community health care providers in Richmond and other nearby communities throughout Kentucky’s Bluegrass region.

Financial Aid: Eastern Kentucky University administers a number of scholarships, although none of them are specifically designated for nursing students. Incoming students who are Kentucky residents and who are enrolling at EKU for the first time are automatically considered for these awards. You may also be able to subsidize part of your educational costs through federal and state grants and loans as determined by the information you provide on your FAFSA form.

4. Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green

About WKU School of Nursing: The School of Nursing at Western Kentucky University was founded in 1962 as a means of dealing with the chronic shortage of nurses in the rural areas of the Bluegrass State. The school believes that a sound liberal arts education builds the foundation for professional nursing process and the application of critical thinking skills. In addition to basic bedside skills, nurses in this set of nursing programs in Kentucky are taught to identify the nexus of biological, economic and environmental factors that may be impacting their patients’ health statuses in negative ways. WKU is partnering with the University of Kentucky on a Bowling Green regional medical campus, which will undoubtedly play an important role in the education of future nursing students at this university.

The nursing school is housed in a 73,000-square-foot health sciences center called the Medical Center-WKU Health Sciences Complex. The simulation center offers students the opportunity to acquire clinical expertise by practicing bedside skills on computerized manikins while using real hospital equipment. Students also participate in supervised clinical rotations at hospitals, clinics, nursing care facilities, schools and county health departments throughout the metropolitan Bowling Green area and other parts of southern Kentucky.

Financial Aid: Western Kentucky University offers 37 scholarships, specifically for nursing students. You will need to complete a general scholarship application and apply for them online. You may also be eligible for needs-based state and federal financial aid depending upon the information you submit in your FAFSA form.

5. University of Louisville, Louisville

About UofL School of Nursing: Originally chartered in 1798, the University of Louisville is one of the oldest public institutions of higher learning in the U.S. If you want to become part of a health care team dedicated to improving wellness in urban centers, the UofL School of Nursing has a lot to offer. The school is a noted nursing research center; faculty research interests include patient safety, infection control, diabetes self-management, arthritis self-management, and chronic illnesses in adolescents. In 2015, the school received grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging totaling more than $2,400,000.

UofL’s School of Nursing is located on the University of Louisville Health Sciences campus, which is part of the Louisville Medical Center complex. The Learning Resource Center, which is located on the third floor of the nursing building, contains both a simulation lab and a clinical learning lab. Students use the task trainers in the clinical learning lab to familiarize themselves with basic patient-care skills like starting IVs, and blood draws. In the simulation center, patients use computerized manikins to reenact clinical scenarios they’re likely to encounter once they enter professional practice. Clinical rotations take place at the University of Louisville Hospital, and other medical facilities and community agencies throughout greater Louisville. The School of Nursing also collaborates with the university’s School of Dentistry on a nurse-managed clinic called UofL Care Partners.

Financial Aid: The School of Nursing lists 14 scholarships for which enrolled students may be eligible. In addition, the school maintains a comprehensive list of external nursing scholarships. Filling out and submitting a FAFSA form may qualify you for other types of needs-based state and federal financial aid.

6. Northern Kentucky University, Highland HTS

About NKU Department of Nursing: Nursing students at Northern Kentucky University share learning experiences with other students like aspiring respiratory therapists and radiation therapists who are enrolled in the College of Health Professions. This is another of those nursing colleges in Kentucky that was created to deal with a regional nursing shortage. The educational emphasis here is on educating nurses who will graduate with a strong foundation in general nursing skills.

The St. Elizabeth Healthcare Simulation Center is a state-of-the-art facility that features seven virtual hospital suites, including an intensive care unit and a fully equipped operating room. The Simulation Center also contains an apartment facsimile so that aspiring nurses can learn how to administer care in patients’ homes. Highland Heights is right across the river from Cincinnati, so students have the chance to pursue clinical rotations at some of that city’s top-ranked hospitals, including St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Christ Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The department also sponsors a Nursing Summer Camp for high school students who think they may be interested in pursuing nursing careers; students at the camp get to practice skills in the Simulation Center and to shadow nurse preceptors at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

Financial Aid: The Department of Nursing administers the Janice Mabry Cantrall Nursing Scholarship to students who exhibit outstanding leadership qualities. NKU offers several other nursing-specific awards, too. Filling out and submitting a FAFSA form may also make students eligible to receive state and federal grants and loans.

7. Spalding University, Louisville

About Spalding University School of Nursing: Nazareth Academy was initially founded in 1814 by a Catholic order of nuns. The school changed its name to “Spalding College” in 1969 and was upgraded into a university in 1984. Though it adheres to the Catholic tradition of higher education, the university is open to students of all religious faiths. Spalding’s School of Nursing is particularly strong in preparing aspiring nurses on how to deal with the ethical issues that are so much a part of every nurse’s practice. The school provides unique clinical opportunities such as the chance to provide immigrant care at local clinics or to do physical exams for Special Olympics participants.

The simulation lab is equipped with high-tech manikins and sophisticated equipment that enable nursing students to hone their nursing fundamentals and to participate in a wide variety of care-giving scenarios. Once they’re comfortable in a practice environment, nursing students go on to participate in clinical rotations at hospitals, ambulatory care clinics, schools, and public health agencies throughout the Louisville area.

Financial Aid: Seven scholarships have been designated by Spalding donors, specifically for the support of nursing students. Nursing students may also be eligible for other academic and needs-based institutional scholarships. Students who submit a FAFSA form may qualify for additional federal and state grants and loans.

8. Morehead State University, Morehead

About Morehead State University Department of Nursing: The Department of Nursing at Morehead State University is one of the few offering nursing degrees in KY—or indeed in the U.S.—that still awards two-year associate degrees in addition to four-year baccalaureate degrees. While its focus is on graduating nurses who will contribute their professional talents to improving health care in the Bluegrass State, the education you receive here will prepare you to work successfully anywhere.

Labs in the Center of Health, Education & Research building are set up to duplicate hospital units and include acute care, critical care, and obstetrical environments. These areas are set up with up-to-date equipment as well as with computerized manikins that are programmed to mimic a range of illnesses. Such simulated settings give students the opportunity to learn the basic skills and decision-making abilities they will be falling back upon again and again once they become professional nurses. The department partners with more than 50 hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, hospices, and health departments across the state in order to provide students with high-quality clinical rotation placements.

Financial Aid: Morehead doesn’t offer any nursing-specific scholarships, but it does offer a number of other institutional awards for which nursing students may be eligible. The applications of all incoming students are automatically reviewed for scholarship consideration. Additional financial aid may be available through state and federal Title IV sources upon submission of a FAFSA form.

9. Murray State University, Murray

About School of Nursing and Health Professions: Both Forbes Magazine and U.S. News & World Report recognize Murray State University as one of the top regional institutions of higher learning in the country. Aspiring nurses are taught not only discipline-specific skills but also interdisciplinary competencies that will help them function successfully as part of a health care team. In addition to tomorrow’s nurses, the School of Nursing and Health Professions trains prospective occupational therapists, nutritionists, and public health workers. The education you receive here will prepare you to become a highly skilled nurse generalist who is capable of rising to every professional challenge that comes your way.

Cutting-edge simulation labs give students the opportunity to practice hands-on skills such as medication administration, suctioning, and IV insertion without risk of injuring patients. Clinical rotations can sometimes be scheduled for sites that are a distance from Murray and southwestern Kentucky. Murray State also partners with hospitals like Mercy Hospital in Ardmore that have had difficulties recruiting nurses to fill empty employment slots. The Murray at Mercy nursing program is a two-year program complete with opportunities for classroom and simulation learning.

Financial Aid: Murray State doesn’t offer any nursing-specific awards, but nursing students are eligible to apply for any of the school’s other competitive scholarships. In order to be considered, they will need to fill out a Murray State General Scholarship Application as well as a FAFSA form. Filling out a FAFSA form may also put you in the running for state and federal financial aid.

10. Kentucky Christian University, Grayson

About Yancey School of Nursing: Kentucky Christian University got its start as a college training Christian ministers and missionaries. Today, the university is affiliated with a fellowship of independent congregations known as the Churches of Christ. Biblical studies are a mandatory part of its curriculum, and attendance is required at the twice-weekly chapel services. The Yancey School of Nursing believes that nursing is a ministry, and all classes are taught from a decidedly Christian perspective. Faculty-to-student ratios are very low so that students can benefit from being mentored by their instructors. Many graduates go on to become primary care providers to underserved populations throughout all parts of rural Kentucky.

The Working in Simulated Environments (WISE) lab was designed to provide students with a safe environment so that they could develop bedside competencies and expertise in clinical decision-making before they begin working with actual patients. Clinical rotations at hospitals, clinics, and community agencies throughout Grayson and the nearby Huntington-Ashland metropolitan region enable students to apply newly developed skills to a range of real-world practice situations.

Financial Aid: Though Kentucky Christian University doesn’t offer any scholarships that are specifically designed for nursing students, every incoming student who meets the university’s admission standards will receive a scholarship of some sort. Students may also be eligible for federal and state loans and grants; in order to qualify for these, you’ll need to fill out a FAFSA form.


Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

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