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Belmont nurses will get HCA training
By Blake Farmer, News Correspondent
June 12, 2006
During the past six years, Belmont University nursing students have held classes in nearly every nook and cranny available, forced to do so because of the school’s explosive growth. Students even met in Sunday school rooms at Belmont Heights Baptist Church.

As of Friday, the School of Health Sciences and Nursing calls the Gordon E. Inman Center home. The facility was designed with significant input from HCA’s TriStar Health System, which donated about one-third of the money to cover the building’s $22.5 million price tag.

TriStar officials told the school not only did they want to address the state’s nursing shortage, the industry giant wants to ensure nurses are well-trained.

For example, a new bar-coding technology called eMar (electronic medication administration record) is widely used in HCA hospitals. Both medications and patients are labeled with barcodes that are then scanned to double-check that patients receive the proper medicine.

“We tried to include a lot of the equipment HCA uses in its facilities,” said Debra Wollaber, dean of the BU School of Nursing. “They’ve worked very closely with us to be a true partner in the education of our students.”

The original purpose of the Belmont/HCA partnership was to address a growing nursing shortage, which one study predicts to reach 9,500 nurses by 2020 in Tennessee alone. The study attributes the shortfall to limited nursing school capacity nationwide, a gradually retiring workforce of nurses, and increased demand from an aging population.

TriStar hospitals are not at a critical point yet, according to a spokesperson, but striking the Belmont deal should help alleviate concerns about the future.

“We’re always looking for talent…, especially clinical talent,” said Larry Kloess, TriStar President. “The reality is, we have nurses who are getting older and retiring, nurses who are leaving the area, and some who are pursuing other lines of profession.”

Belmont’s new building should allow it to double output of nurses over the next couple of years. Space constraints had held the nursing school to 280 students, but now the program can handle 600 nursing majors. While graduates of the program will not be tied to work for HCA, they will get the opportunity to intern in the company’s hospitals.

Wollaber said that the coming nursing shortage is common knowledge, but now occupational therapists, physical therapists and hospital social workers are in the same position. The College of Health Sciences is also expanding capacity to include those emphases.

Nashville State Community Col-lege, Trevecca Nazarene University and Volunteer State Community College have partnered with Belmont to form a nursing consortium. Cooperative schools will send students to Belmont to finish nursing degrees.

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