A graduate school of nursing and health professions is the newest planned expansion of the partnership between Hofstra University and North Shore-LIJ Health System, with officials pledging an "innovative" program to help meet the need for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The school would offer a three-year, part-time program leading to a master of science degree in nursing as a family nurse practitioner or an adult-gerontology acute-care nurse practitioner, officials said Tuesday.

The graduate nursing program's start is contingent upon State Education Department approval.

"We are ready to go as soon as they give us the green light," said Kathleen Gallo, senior vice president and chief learning officer at North Shore-LIJ Health System. She has been appointed founding dean of the new graduate school.

"We would love to have opening day in September," Gallo said in an interview. "If not September, January." She also is an associate professor of science education at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

Gallo said practical considerations led to the program's part-time formulation.

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"The experience across the country with nurses pursuing a master's degree is that they have full-time jobs and they have families," she said. "It's a rare individual that can go full-time, especially with the requirements we're going to have: 52 credits and 840 clinical hours."

Hofstra's two existing programs in physician assistant studies -- a dual-degree program and a graduate program -- also will be housed in the new Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Graduate Nursing and Health Professions.

Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said at a news conference on the campus in Hempstead the new graduate school is the "next logical step in what has been, in seven short years, an incredible partnership" that created the medical school, which enrolled its first class in 2011.

"The focus of this new school will be as innovative and visionary and future-oriented as our medical school," Rabinowitz said.

Citing statistics that about 10,000 people a day turn 65, Rabinowitz said growth in the elderly population "will put more stress on the health care system. Whatever the future of health care is, it's going to need to be a team-oriented process. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will need to be part of that team."

Michael J. Dowling, president and chief executive of North Shore-LIJ, praised the collaboration between the two institutions. He added that a "different kind of workforce" is needed to meet changing health care needs.

The university and North Shore-LIJ, he said, "have a responsibility to prepare people for that circumstance that is just around the corner."

Deborah Trautman, chief executive of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, based in Washington, D.C., said 11,000 "qualified individuals" who sought master's level education were turned away last year nationwide.

Advanced degrees are crucial, she told the audience, noting that an "educated nursing workforce" leads to better patient care.