10 Best Nursing Schools in Tennessee – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

The nursing shortage in Tennessee is regional. Health care providers in the eastern part of the state may have candidates to choose from, but nursing vacancies in hospitals throughout western Tennessee go unfilled. Additionally, approximately half of the Volunteer State’s current nurses are 50 or older, which means they will be retiring in the near future. By 2020, it’s been projected that Tennessee will have the most severe nursing shortage in the southeast part of the U.S. In Nashville, hospitals are offering incentives like signing bonuses, free housing and college tuition to recruit and retain nurses. As a graduate from one of the accredited nursing schools in Tennessee, you should find it easy to land the nursing job of your dreams.



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

1. University of Tennessee - Knoxville, Knoxville

About University of Tennessee College of Nursing: The University of Tennessee’s College of Nursing may be a great match for you if you’re interested in improving health outcomes through reforming the existing health care system. This nationally ranked nursing school in TN is renowned for its teaching, its research, and the pioneering role it plays in promoting interprofessional collaboration. In fact, in 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded the college a $12 million grant in support of an innovative program that enables advance practice nurses to share learning and ideas with medical students, pharmacy students and students of industrial engineering.

A 2,400-square-foot learning lab is equipped with task trainers that facilitate learning bedside skills like blood draws, wound care, and urinary catheter insertion. The high-tech, 7,600-square-foot Health Innovation Technology and Simulation Lab gives nursing students the opportunity to practice newly acquired clinical skills in settings that are designed to mimic a range of health care environments from intensive care units to patients’ homes. Clinical rotations take place at major hospitals, community clinics, health departments, and schools throughout the Knoxville area.

Financial Aid: The College of Nursing administers several endowed scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. To apply, fill out the pertinent online application form through the Office of Financial Aid’s OneStop site. The college maintains a list of external nursing scholarships, too. Students may also qualify for state and federal financial aid if they fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

2. Union University, Jackson

About College of Nursing and Health Sciences @ Union University: While students of all faiths are welcome to attend the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Union University, the university is a Christian evangelical institution of higher learning, and even science classes like anatomy and physiology are taught from a biblical perspective. The school offers 37 different nursing tracks for undergraduate and graduate students, which is a real plus if there’s a subspecialty like pediatric primary care or gerontology you’re particularly passionate about. Part-time enrollment options are also available for both undergraduates and graduates.

The college has one of the largest simulation centers in the southern U.S. with ten patient rooms, computerized manikins and a range of hospital equipment so that students can familiarize themselves with the protocols and situations they’ll be facing in their nursing practice after they graduate. Students bring these skills to the clinical rotations they participate in at critical care, acute care, ambulatory, and community settings throughout Jackson and other parts of western Tennessee. Union also sponsors short-term international missions to locations like the Dominican Republic, which nursing students are welcome to join.

Financial Aid: Although Union University doesn’t offer any scholarships specifically for nursing students, nursing students may apply for any of institutional grants and scholarships whose criteria they meet. Submitting a FAFSA form may also qualify you for needs-based federal and state grants and loans.

3. University of Memphis, Memphis

About Loewenberg College of Nursing: The Loewenberg College of Nursing gets top ratings from ranking sites like U.S. News & World Report, TheBestSchools.org and Best College Reviews. Caring, diversity, integrity, and leadership are the core values that inform the education you will receive here. If you believe part of your mission as a nurse will be to make health care more accessible and more affordable, then Loewenberg is right up your alley.

The college shares the 200,000-square-foot Community Health Building on the University of Memphis’s main campus with the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Memphis Speech and Hearing Clinic. The eastern wing of this building houses six state-of-the-art simulation suites where students have the opportunity to learn the nursing techniques and critical thinking skills they’ll be using daily on the job once they enter the nursing profession. Clinical rotations take place at some of the most prestigious health care facilities in greater metropolitan Memphis, including Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Delta Medical Center, Baptist Memorial Health Care, Regional One Health and Shelby County Health Department. Loewenberg also partners with St. Jude Hospital on an innovative residency program that helps ease new nurses into their working roles.

Financial Aid: The Loewenberg College of Nursing makes 21 endowed scholarships available to its students. In order to qualify for one, you must submit an application between early November and late January. Filling out a FAFSA form may also help you receive needs-based state and federal financial aid.

4. Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate

About LMU Caylor School of Nursing: If you’re a proud Tennessee resident who wants to make a career in the Volunteer State, the Caylor School of Nursing at Lincoln Memorial University should be on your radar: It’s one of the nursing colleges in Tennessee that’s committed to addressing Tennessee’s chronic nursing shortage. Caylor teaches nursing as a science that’s responsive to community needs. The Roy Adaptation Model underlies Caylor’s educational philosophy, and nursing students are taught to view patients as biopsychosocial beings in continuous interaction with an ever-changing environment. Through its Interprofessional Education and Collaboration Practice initiative, Caylor also promotes shared learning experiences between nursing students and students at LMU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Caylor’s simulation lab has six suites that are designed to resemble an Emergency Room, an ICU, an operating room, and a delivery room. High-tech manikins capable of simulating realistic physiological responses fill in as patients while nursing students enact a range of scenarios they’re likely to encounter when they’re working as nurses. Students have the chance to hone their skills further through clinical rotations where they shadow professional nurses at hospitals and clinics throughout Harrowgate and the Cumberland Gap region.

Financial Aid: LMU administers more than 30 scholarships for which nursing students are invited to apply. Nursing students may also qualify for state and federal financial aid if the information they submit on their FAFSA forms documents sufficient need.

5. University of Tennessee - Chattanooga, Chattanooga

About UTC School of Nursing: The School of Nursing at the University of Tennessee was founded in 1973 as the result of intense lobbying by professional nursing organizations that saw the need for baccalaureate and master’s degree nurses in the southeastern part of the state abutting the Georgia border. The school is proud of its pioneering use of technology in furtherance of person-centered health care.

The School of Nursing’s Simulation Center is designed to help ensure that students are “practice-ready” when they enter the workforce as nurses. The school understands that nurses are an important part of a health care team, so nursing students and UTC medical students work collaboratively in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit hospital mockups. The Simulation Center also houses operating room and post-anesthesia care units. Once they’re comfortable with bedside care, student nurses pursue clinical rotations within the Erlanger Health System and at other hospitals, clinics, and community agencies in the communities that hug the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. UTC also participates in an innovative Clinical-Academic Network for Developing Leaders (CANDL) program, which gives family practice nursing students the opportunity to connect with rural, underserved populations.

Financial Aid: Sixteen scholarships are available to nursing majors at the University of Tennessee’s Chattanooga campus. UTN also participates in the Title IV program, so students may find additional funding sources by submitting a FAFSA form, which may qualify them for state and federal grants and loans.

6. Belmont University, Nashville

About Belmont University School of Nursing: Belmont University’s School of Nursing offers nursing programs in Tennessee that’s heavily influenced by Christian values. The university was founded just after the Civil War under the aegis of the Tennessee Baptist Convention as a seminary for accomplished young women. In 2007, the university severed its connections with the Baptists and became a nondenominational Christian institution of higher learning. You don’t have to be Christian to attend the School of Nursing, but the school’s educational emphasis is very much on service and caring.

The nursing school is headquartered in the $18-million, three-story Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing. The building’s learning labs are equipped with patient stations featuring hospital equipment and programmable manikins. Here, student nurses learn basic skills like clinical assessment, vital signs monitoring, and blood draws. Clinical rotations take place at various critical care and acute care facilities throughout the greater Nashville region, including the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which U.S. News & World Report has recognized as one of the best hospitals in the nation.

Financial Aid: Belmont University offers 11 nursing-specific scholarships to returning students. Each has its own set of criteria. In order to apply, you’ll need to a School of Nursing Scholarship Application by February 25. Federal and state financial aid may also be an option depending upon the information you submit in your FAFSA form.

7. East Tennessee State University, Johnson City

About ETSU College of Nursing : Are you interested in working with underserved populations outside densely populated cities? The College of Nursing at East Tennessee State University is widely recognized as one of the top schools in the U.S. for nursing practitioners who are interested in providing primary care in rural settings. U.S. News & World Report ranked this school high on its 2020 list of the best nursing schools in the nation. The college is also renowned as a nursing research center, and its faculty has done pioneering work in topics as diverse as the health needs of Hispanics in eastern Tennessee, perceptions of infertility stigma and the most effective uses of simulation in nursing education.

The college shares the Roy S. Nicks Hall on campus with the computer science department. A sophisticated Simulation Lab allows students to perform procedures on computerized manikins that have been programmed to respond realistically to physiological stimuli. In addition to clinical rotation opportunities at partner hospitals and clinics throughout Washington, Sullivan and Carter counties, the college also sponsors clinical rotations at its own five nurse-led primary care clinics: Johnson City Community Health Center, Johnson City Downtown Day Center, University Health Center, Hancock County School Based Health Center and Mountain City Extended Hours Health Center.

Financial Aid: Between March 1 and June 15 each year, students can apply for 19 different scholarships offered by ETSU’s College of Nursing. Depending upon the information they submit in their FAFSA application, students may also be eligible to receive state and federal financial aid.

8. King University, Bristol

About King University School of Nursing: At King University’s School of Nursing, you’ll be taught to take a holistic approach to nursing care in which your patient’s responses to the environment he or she lives in are just as important as any symptoms your patient may manifest. King is another university offering nursing degrees in TN that integrates academic programming with a Christian perspective. You don’t have to be a Christian to attend this school, but Christian principles underlie the nursing education you’ll receive here.

Students learn the fundamentals of bedside practice by taking part in clinical labs and simulation exercises. In addition to clinical rotations at hospitals and clinics throughout Bristol and Sullivan County, students also have myriad opportunities for service learning by assisting at free health clinics, school systems, and community programs. Nursing students are also encouraged to participate in King University mission trips to international locations like Honduras, India, Brazil, and Italy.

Financial Aid: King University doesn’t offer any nursing-specific scholarships to nursing majors, but its Financial Aid Office does maintain a comprehensive list of external scholarships for which nursing students may be eligible. Nursing students are also encouraged to apply for other institutional scholarships administered by King. Federal and state aid may be available for students who show financial need on the basis of the information they submit in their FAFSA forms.

9. Carson Newman University, Jefferson City

About Department of Nursing @ Carson-Newman University: Carson Newman University is one more Christian school whose nursing programs are highly regarded. CNU was founded in 1851 as a Baptist seminary, and in 2015, the university received a Title IX exemption, though administrators note they have no plans to use it. The nursing department offers a variety of nursing baccalaureate degrees but no graduate degrees.

While students have access to the equipment in the Drama Russell Nursing Clinical Simulation Lab, most Carson Newman University nursing students credit the dedication and diligence of the high-quality instructors at this school for teaching them all the things they need to know. The nursing department participates in a cooperative learning arrangement with North Knoxville Medical Center, a member of the Tennova Healthcare system, and student nurses perform clinical rotations with designated nurse preceptors at that hospital. As part of the experiential learning component of their studies, students also work in long-term care facilities in Jefferson City. Nursing students are also encouraged to participate in Carson Newman’s Center for Global Education, which sponsors international trips to locations like Peru, Costa Rica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and South Korea.

Financial Aid: While Carson Newman University doesn’t offer scholarships that are endowed specifically for nursing students, it does offer a number of merit-based academic awards funded by private donors for which nursing students are invited to apply. Federal and state grants may also be available to students who submit FAFSA forms indicating financial need.

10. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro

About MTSU School of Nursing: The School of Nursing at Middle Tennessee State University recognizes that the nation’s health care needs are changing fast; to that end, the school’s focus is upon educating nurse generalists who have a strong interest in primary care and who can rise to every new challenge. Many of the nursing students who graduate from this school pursue careers in central Tennessee.

The school is housed in the Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building, which contains six simulation labs as well as classrooms. Many of the simulation labs are set up in part like classrooms so that students can sit down with their instructors after the experiential component of their learning is through to discuss their reactions to the situations they’ve just participated in. Sim labs include a virtual obstetrics unit and a 20-bed hospital unit; both are equipped with lifelike manikins that are programmed to respond to stimuli in realistic ways. These simulated environments provide a safe space for nursing students to learn skills such as medication administration, IV insertion, and nasogastric tube insertion. Once they’ve become comfortable providing hands-on care, students participate in clinical rotations with hospitals and other community partners in Murfreesboro and additional locations throughout central Tennessee. Every spring, MTSU nursing students sponsor a health fair for the campus community, providing free health screenings and wellness advice.

Financial Aid: Middle Tennessee State University administers 20 scholarships, specifically for nursing students. In order to be considered for one of these scholarships, you’ll need to fill out a nursing scholarship application and a FAFSA form. Filling out a FAFSA form may also help you qualify for needs-based federal and state grants and loans.


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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