Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) has been awarded nearly $1 million from the state to expand facilities used for the nursing program.

At their June 16 meeting, members of the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) approved granting $953,118 from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Excels Fund program to MSU-WP to help design and construct an addition to Looney Hall that will house a new and larger lecture classroom.

The addition will allow the nursing program to apply to the Missouri State Board of Nursing to increase the admissions capacity for its Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree regular track program. If approved, the capacity would go from 25 students each semester to 35 students each semester.

“As we all realize to an even greater extent these days, having highly trained, highly skilled nurses is a critical part of what we need and expect in a thriving, healthy community,” said MSU-WP Interim Chancellor Dennis Lancaster. “To meet this need and the ongoing demand for our RN program, this addition of classroom space will allow us to seek yet another expansion of our nursing program and the number of students we can serve.

 “We greatly appreciate Governor (Mike) Parson and the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development for their support and financial assistance to make this happen for our campus and students,” Lancaster added.

Gov. Mike Parson
Gov. Mike Parson Credit: FILE PHOTO

In their request for funding, university officials pointed out the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the nursing shortage in Missouri, especially in south-central Missouri. Statewide, demand for registered nurses increased 95% in 2020, but the number of nurses entering the workforce increased by just 17%.

In its 2020 Missouri Nursing Workforce Report, officials at the Missouri State Board of Nursing showed that six of the seven counties in MSU-WP’s primary service were below the state’s average of 77 nurses per 10,000 residents for rural areas. Four of those counties had fewer than 50 registered nurses per 10,000 residents.

“Our region continually demonstrates a need for more professional nurses in order to provide adequate healthcare to the region and the country,” said Amy Ackerson, associate dean of nursing an allied health. “The largest barrier to expanding MSU-WP’s nursing program to meet that need, however, has been space. The Missouri State Board of Nursing has indicated that MSU-WP must find additional physical space before it will authorize additional enrollment in the nursing program.

“The 2,000-square-foot addition to Looney Hall and its 100-seat lecture classroom will address this issue. We currently admit 25 students in each cohort. With a classroom that houses 100 students, our classes can be much larger.           

“Also, the space will be a welcome addition for hosting events in which all students can be in one place at one time. Lastly, the space can be used by the rest of the campus or the community to have events outside the nursing program.”

University officials said they hope to have the project completed by the 2022 fall semester.

For more information about the nursing program, visit wp.missouristate.edu/nursing or call 417-255-7739.

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