The Regents, meeting Dec. 2 in Brownsville, authorized $6.5 million for additions and renovations of the existing School of Nursing building. Constructed in 1974, the building was designed to accommodate a maximum of 500 students, 60-70 faculty and 20 staff. Today, the School of Nursing enrolls about 760 students and employs 90 faculty and 40 staff.
"To continue meeting the growing needs of area patients, hospitals and health professionals, the School of Nursing must expand to accommodate present classes, a growing research program and the new doctoral program," said Dr. Patty L. Hawken, dean of nursing.
"Each semester, we are forced to turn away more than 200 qualified applicants for admission," Dr. Hawken said. "This approved expansion will help us to open our doors to some of these students."
According to projections, the School of Nursing should be able to raise its enrollment to 800 students once the project is complete.
Texas continues to face an acute shortage of nurses, and opening the door to more nursing students might help relieve this shortage. According to information compiled by the School of Nursing, the state's hospitals report a 12 percent vacancy rate of registered nurses (RN's) in metropolitan areas, a total that climbs to 25-50 percent in some rural areas of the state.
"The Rio Grande Valley, which we are committed to serve, has very few primary care providers and thus an even greater need for nurses who can step in to fill the gap," said Dr. Hawken.
The expansion and renovation project will add 26,000 square feet to the Nursing School building's existing 76,000 square feet. All additions and renovations are projected to be completed by 1995-96. The architectural firm hired for the project is Phelps Garza Bomberger of San Antonio.
Other major gifts received for the School of Nursing expansion include $375,000 from the Valero Energy Corp. of San Antonio, $100,000 from the Helene Fuld Health Trust of New York and $10,000 from the Marcia & Otto Koehler Foundation of San Antonio.
"The expansion of the School of Nursing is essential to allow the school to prepare nurses for today and the 21st century," said Dr. Hawken. "We are grateful for these generous gifts that will help us stand ready to serve the growing health care needs of our region."