Health-care education and access for central and western Nebraska has taken a major step forward with the groundbreaking of the new Health Science Education Complex on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.
The project, an innovative collaboration between UNK and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, will help reduce the shortage of health professionals in Nebraska – particularly in rural areas – by expanding Kearney-based UNMC programs in nursing and allied health and making them more accessible to students.
Called a “game-changer” by UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen, the $19 million, 50,000-square foot building will be located on the west edge of the UNK campus. It’s made possible by a $15 million investment from the State of Nebraska, part of the University of Nebraska’s Building a Healthier Nebraska initiative in 2012, plus $4 million in private donations.
At the Health Science Education Complex, the UNMC School of Allied Health Professions will expand its educational programs for physician assistants, physical therapists, clinical laboratory scientists, radiographers and diagnostic medical sonographers. The UNMC College of Nursing will expand its master’s programs for nurse practitioners and its bachelor’s in nursing programs.
“We are making history,” UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., said. “There are only a very few moments in life when you get to look around yourself and to think about the fact that we’re really making history together.”
The complex will house a learning and research environment that promotes education in rural primary care and generates scientific discoveries and new knowledge about rural health. Programs will promote high-quality primary care in rural communities by creating academic and community partnerships around rural health challenges and opportunities. The expanded capacity will allow for almost 50 more Kearney-based nursing students and 130 new allied health professions students.
In all, the complex will house more than 300 students, 50 personnel, seven classrooms, five laboratories and 14 simulation areas – providing the best possible health education experience for students.
Brad Britigan, M.D., dean of the UNMC College of Medicine, said the team-based care taught in the new building will reflect a new approach to education. “This new school, new approach to education is going to put us in the forefront,” he said.
Juliann Sebastian, Ph.D., dean of the UNMC College of Nursing, said the expanded programs will prepare nurses to fill workforce shortages. “This project belongs to all of you and the surrounding communities in Nebraska,” she said at the groundbreaking.
Kyle Meyer, Ph.D., senior associate dean of the UNMC School of Allied Health Professions, said the project marks a new era in educating health professionals with a focus on team-based care.
Chancellor Gold said the partnership will help address critical issues in health care today: access, quality, efficiency and cost. “All of us want and expect extremely high-quality health care,” Dr. Gold said. “It’s the human touch that makes a difference. We’re making a statement for the community, Kearney and the state that we can do it better.”
The Health Science Education Complex is scheduled to be completed in June 2015.