CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University will be relocating its nursing education programs from the campus of the University of North Carolina-Asheville to roomier facilities at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College campus in Enka, a move made possible by a grant of $250,800 from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

The additional space will enable Western’s nursing program to enroll larger number of students as part of its strategy to help address an acute shortage of qualified nurses in North Carolina – and across the nation.

The funds from the Winston-Salem trust will be used to renovate approximately 10,000 square feet of office and classroom space in the former BASF plant, and to modernize and expand laboratory facilities at Western’s main campus in Cullowhee.

“We have enjoyed a long and happy relationship with the folks at UNCA, but classroom space on the Asheville campus has become increasingly difficult to obtain as UNCA enrollment has grown,” said Vincent Hall, head of Western’s department of nursing. “The move to the A-B Tech campus at Enka will provide the space we must have to allow our nursing program to expand as we try to respond to the community’s need for more nurses.”

Hall cited a 2002 Southern Regional Education Board report estimating a shortage of 2,046 nurses in North Carolina by 2010, a deficit expected to increase to 8,868 by 2015. “The average age of a bedside nurse is 42, and fewer new nurses are coming into the pipeline,” he said. “At the same time, the population of the United States is aging rapidly and facing multiple types of chronic illness. Unless efforts are made to increase the supply, there will not be enough nurses to meet demand.”

The grant funds also provide “seed money” to allow the department to hire two new faculty members to teach the additional undergraduate nursing students expected to enroll in the program over the next few years, and to initiate a new graduate-level option in nursing education.

Western Carolina is the only state-supported university in Western North Carolina that provides baccalaureate and master’s level nursing education. The department of nursing at Western was founded in 1969, and has a long history of preparing nurses for practice in a variety of health care settings across the state. The department awarded its 1,500th bachelor’s degree in nursing during May’s commencement exercises – a milestone reached 30 years after the first class graduated in 1973 and eight years after the 1,000th graduate crossed the stage in 1995.

Graduates consistently post one of the top pass rates in North Carolina on professional licensure examinations.

The department provides three types of educational programs – an undergraduate program leading to the bachelor’s degree in nursing; a Capstone program that enables nurses with two-year associate degrees or diplomas to complete their four-year degrees; and a graduate program that currently prepares nurses to become family nurse practitioners. The junior year of the BSN program is located on Western’s main campus in Cullowhee, with the remainder of the department and its programs housed in Asheville.

“Our faculty have earned a statewide reputation for providing a high-quality education, and the department was awarded the university’s Program of Excellence Award in 2000,” Hall said. “The grant from Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust will give us additional resources we need to provide the people of Western North Carolina with well-trained nurses and health care providers.”

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was created in 1947 by the will of Mrs. William N. Reynolds of Winston-Salem. Three-fourths of the trust’s grants are designated for use for health-related programs and services across North Carolina, and one-fourth for the poor and needy of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

For more information about Western’s nursing programs, contact the department of nursing at (828) 227-7467 in Cullowhee, or the WCU Programs in Asheville Office at (828) 251-6642.

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Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2003
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