SALINA — Salina Regional Health Center’s board of trustees believes in the future of the nursing program at Kansas Wesleyan University.

The board has awarded the program a vote of confidence worth $1 million.

The board announced it will help KWU secure the future of nursing education at the university in the form of $600,000 in cash and a former doctor’s office valued at $400,000. The resources allow the university to establish a standalone Nursing Education Center on its campus.

The lead gift from Salina Regional Health Center marks the launch of the university’s $4.5 million campaign for the new nursing center.

The new building, at 135 E. Claflin Ave., is the former offices of Merle Hodges and the Salina Women’s Clinic. After interior and exterior renovations, it will become the first new instructional-only facility on the campus in 50 years.

Joel Phelps, president and chief operating officer of Salina Regional Health Center, said the dual donation is part of an increased community focus for the medical group.

“We feel privileged to be a community partner with Kansas Wesleyan in building future services to train nurses,” he said. “This effort falls right in line with the mission of Salina Regional Health Center and serving the health care needs of the region. We believe this program will help produce quality nurses who will serve North-Central Kansas.”

KWU president Matt Thompson said once the total capital for the project is raised, work on the education center is anticipated to begin late this summer with a goal of completion for late fall 2020.

“The largesse of Salina Regional Health Center is unquestioned, and I would offer that it is likely unequaled in other communities of our size,” Thompson said. “I truly believe Kansas Wesleyan and Salina are blessed to have a health care facility that not only has a vision but has the foresight to act on that vision for the greater good.”

The 13,000-square foot, two-floor building will contain a performance lab, simulation suite, testing area, large classrooms, multimedia conference room, student study area and faculty offices.

Simulation and clinical laboratories will give students hands-on practice in bedside care, simulated patient scenarios and collaborative learning opportunities with other health care disciplines, preparing students to go into immediate practice after passing national board certification testing and licensing.

The renovation will be designed to handle educational facilities for 80 nursing students, 40 each in junior and senior classes.

KWU nursing students will spend their first two years with basic studies and enter concentrated nursing education coursework in their final two years.

The nursing program at KWU was established in January 1988 after an Asbury Hospital program was moved to the university. The Department of Nursing Education initiated an associate degree in nursing in 1989, followed by a bachelor of science in nursing degree program in 1990.

Beginning in 2014, the need for major program revisions was identified. In the summer of 2015, nurses with advanced degrees were hired for a new full-time nursing faculty. In 2017, the bachelor of science nursing degree was converted to a bachelor of science with a major in nursing degree so new curriculum ideas could be implemented. The university also offers an online program.

The university’s nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

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