GHS and Clemson announce $31.5 million nursing school

Officials break ground for the Clemson-GHS nursing school facility.

The Greenville Health System (GHS) and Clemson University are collaborating to build a $31.5 million, 78,255-square-foot clinical learning and research building at the Greenville Memorial Medical Campus.

They broke ground on Jan. 30 at 701 Grove Road for the new Clemson University Center for Nursing, Health Research, and Innovation facility.

Artist’s rendering of the facility, from Batson Associates

Set to open in 2018, the four-story building will make it possible to expand the Clemson and GHS bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree program from 352 students to 800 students over the next six years. The S.C. Commission on Higher Education approved the expansion collaboration in 2016.

“This will double the number of undergraduate nursing students that we’ll be able to educate and also place in clinical experiences,” says Kathleen Valentine, director of Clemson’s School of Nursing and associate dean of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.

The goal is to ease the Upstate’s nursing shortage. Data collected by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing suggest a growing nursing shortage as baby boomer nurses retire and too few new nurses graduate. Plus, demand is expected to rise. The South and West are expected to have the biggest portion of the nursing shortage, which could top one million nursing job openings by 2022.

In South Carolina, the current nursing shortage in hospitals is at least 2,000, says Ronda Hughes, director of the Center for Nursing Leadership in Columbia.

It’s a critical problem because hospitals when short-staffed of nurses run higher risk of errors and poor quality care, Hughes says.

Compounding the problem is that hospitals increasingly have complex patients and so there is greater demand for bachelor’s degree nurses than for one-year or two-year degree nurses. “Research has shown that patients have better outcomes as a whole when there is a larger percentage of bachelors-prepared nurses, who have better skills, including critical thinking,” Hughes says.

GHS has about an 8 percent vacancy rate for nursing jobs and a greater than 14 percent turnover rate as new nurses enter hospital work and soon leave, says Michelle Taylor-Smith, vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer at GHS.

These rates are similar to what hospitals nationwide experience.

With students immersed in clinical training at GHS through the collaboration, there is a good likelihood that new nursing hires will be better trained and prepared for hospital work and this could help reduce the vacancy and turnover rates, Taylor-Smith notes.

Patients also benefit.

“A BSN-prepared nurse definitely increases the quality of care provided, improves mortality of patients, reduces turnover, and creates a more satisfied nurse and more satisfied patient,” Taylor-Smith says.

GHS and Clemson officials anticipate that the new building will become a hub of academic collaboration, providing space for Clemson faculty health researchers and others. Featuring a hospital-like environment, the new building will contain virtual reality IV simulators and high-fidelity human patient simulators.

The clinical simulation laboratory is similar to what already is offered at Clemson, Valentine says.

“What’s different with the new building is that it will give students a greater continuity of being able to work with practicing nurses who have experience and to form interprofessional teams as nursing students become part of that environment,” Valentine says.

Statewide, finding qualified nursing instructors is a challenge, Hughes says.

But the GHS-Clemson collaboration will benefit from having some GHS seasoned and higher-degreed nursing staff serve as educators.

The new building will be linked with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville campus. And the two buildings’ two-story connector will contain classrooms, offices, and collaborative space. When the project is finished, USC, Clemson, and GHS will be tied together through projects that include training medical students and nursing students to round together on patients.

Clemson, which is GHS’ primary research partner, currently has more than 90 researchers who work across GHS campuses.

Hughes Development Corp. has a ground lease with GHS for the property where the building will be built, and the health system will lease space from Hughes when it’s built. Batson Associates is the project’s architect, and Brasfield & Gorie is the general contractor.

Nursing students will begin their bachelor’s degree studies at Clemson’s School of Nursing, which now only enrolls about 8 percent of its applicants. After completing two years there, half of the students will finish with their final two years at the GHS nursing building, completing clinical rotations at one of GHS’ participating seven campuses. Per an agreement, Clemson will pay programming fees to GHS. The first students will start at the new building in 2018.


How many nursing students will Clemson enroll?

In preparing for the new collaborative educational program with the Greenville Health System, the Clemson University School of Nursing’s baccalaureate program has begun enrolling additional students. Here are the numbers for the current and next two academic years:

  • 56 students for a total of 120 freshmen nursing students in the 2016-2017 school year;
  • 88 more students for a total of 152 nursing school freshmen in the 2017-2018 school year;
  • 112 additional students for a total of 176 nursing school freshmen in the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Also, Clemson educates about 80 nursing students who are transfers from other programs or who are people with bachelor’s degrees in other fields who are returning to school after years of professional work.



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