Construction of SFA nursing school will serve East Texas students and patients

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - This afternoon SFA nursing students took a break and attended the Richard and Lucy DeWitt School of Nursing groundbreaking. They weren't alone. A large crowd gathered to watch the shovels ceremonially start the construction project. It marked a turn for the better in nursing education. "This is the beginning of a phenomenal journey," said Dr. Glenda Walker, SFA School of Nursing Chair. "And it is going to have a major impact on the nursing shortage both for the state of Texas and especially for East Texas," she said.

The new school is possible because of a 17 acre land donation by Lucy DeWitt and legislation passed during a legislative session when no university other than SFA got construction funding. The school will help put a stop to students crowded into a small classroom to learn important medical information. "This new space is going to be 40,000 square feet of state of art classrooms and simulation labs," Walker described.

Currently, labs are sufficient, but considered so far behind the times. "Frankly, it's been a little bit scary to get out on the floor and have just practiced in a simulation lab that isn't up to date as it could be," said Marsha Kelley, a SFA nursing student set to graduate in May.

Too few schools and insufficient instruction can be attributed to the nursing shortage itself. Last year in Texas 8,000 qualified nursing students were rejected because there was no place to teach them. In 2007, 7000 nursing students graduated in the state. By 2020 Texas will need three times that. Educators agree it's important new nursing schools are built.

The SFA DeWitt School of Nursing has ties to ten nursing programs across east Texas that are members to the East Texas Consortium. Each school will have opportunities to utilize the state of art laboratories. The state of Texas formed the consortium so it could collect and analyze data relevant to the state's nursing shortage.

"Up to 40% of the nursing students trained in East Texas, stay in East Texas," says Walker. This pleases Lucy DeWitt, a hospital volunteer who recognizes the importance of serving those who serve. "This is one of the greatest days I could possibly ever have," said DeWitt from the groundbreaking.

The DeWitt School of Nursing is expected to be completed by January of next year. Once it's opened SFA's nursing enrollment can climb from 60 per semester to 100 students.