College aims to alleviate nurse dearth

Groundbreaking today for training building

April 03, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Moving to address a statewide nursing shortage, Carroll Community College is to break ground today on the county's first building dedicated to training nurses.

The $6 million project, whose future seemed in doubt last year when it was not included in the proposed state budget, is designed to allow the college to expand its nursing program.

"It's very exciting for us because it assures a constant pipeline of future nurses for the hospital," said Leslie R. Simmons, a Carroll County General Hospital vice president who spent two years with a statewide task force on the nursing shortage. "So many residents want to go to nursing school in the county where they live. Carroll County is a county that loves to take care of their own."

The hospital has hired six of the 15 students from the school's first graduating nursing class last year. Students at the college will do some clinical rotations at the hospital, she said.

Like the rest of the state, Carroll is short of nurses. Statistics from a study done by the state Board of Nursing three years ago show a decline in the number of nurses working and living in Carroll County from a high of 887 in 1998 to 691 in 2000.

Simmons said the shortage would be worse in the county if not for a program that pairs longtime nurses at Carroll County General with newly hired nurses and nursing students, which encourages the young nurses to stay in Carroll.

The new building will house a nursing lab, several classrooms and offices over two floors and 31,500 square feet of space. It will be connected to Great Hall, the focal point of the college's campus on Route 32 in Westminster.

The school's request for $2.7 million in state money for the project was not included in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's budget for fiscal 2003. The project was included in the budget after a lobbying effort by county officials, state legislators and local health-care providers.

"It really took all three to get the right attention to the issue and they made it happen," said Alan Schuman, the school's executive vice president of administration. "There was certainly a lot of doubt last year at this time when the funding request was going to the legislature."

Sen. Larry E. Haines, the leader of Carroll's all-Republican delegation, said the project was approved because the college's nursing program became a priority. "Other legislators agreed with the fact that there is a dire need for nurses," he said.

The state Board of Public Works approved the $2.7 million grant in February. In all, the state is paying about $3.1 million toward the project. The county's share is $2.8 million. A donation of $115,000 by local homebuilder Marty Hill will be used to renovate the front courtyard of the college campus circle.

The nursing program expects to more than double in the fall, to 72 students from the current 30, said Judy Coen, division chair of mathematics, science, health and wellness who oversees the program. She said 86 students have applied to the program for the fall semester.

"The hospital continues to work with us to get more candidates into the program," Schuman said. "We're continuing to work with local providers and they're continuing to tell us they have a drastic shortage."

The school will spend $130,000 on nursing and medical programs in the fall in anticipation of construction of the nursing and allied health building.

The physical therapy program will also move to the building. Emergency medical training and radiology will be taught at the building.

The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. today in the circle at the front entrance of Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road in Westminster. Schuman said the college is on schedule to complete the building by June next year and to start classes there in September that year.

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