Local colleges, hospitals form consortium to increase number of rural nurses


By Joe Wyatt

Amarillo College, Frank Phillips College and a group of regional Hospital Districts are pleased to announce the formation of a Consortium conceived to increase the number of homegrown nurses serving rural Panhandle communities.

The Rural Nursing Education Consortium (RNEC) will support the delivery of expanded nursing education opportunities, uniquely delivered via face-to-face and distance learning technology, throughout both Colleges’ service areas, with participating hospitals serving as clinical sites.

Invited to join the Colleges in the RNEC are Coon Memorial Hospital District (Dallam-Hartley Counties), Golden Plains Community Hospital (Borger), Hereford Regional Medical Center, and Moore County Hospital District.

The RNEC will be established when the College presidents and representatives from the Hospital Districts convene for a ceremonial signing under the banner Rural Communities Unite for a Healthy Future.

The formal signing ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5 on the second floor of the College Union Building at AC’s Washington Street Campus.

The Consortium will initiate its objectives upon approval from the following entities: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Board of Nursing, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Under terms of the RNEC agreement, the Colleges will deliver their courses of study to each of the Hospital Districts, mutually crossing each other’s jurisdictional service areas as needed.

Amarillo College will deliver its Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) curriculum – an avenue to becoming a registered nurse – at each participating Hospital District.

Frank Phillips College will similarly extend its reach to deliver the Vocational Nursing (LVN) Program at all four Hospital Districts. Vocational nurses use technical skills in providing competent bedside care for patients in a variety of health care settings.

“This is an exciting alliance that will substantially impact the wellness of our rural Panhandle communities,” said AC President Russell Lowery-Hart.

“Amarillo College is deeply honored to join with Frank Phillips College and these progressive hospital districts as we strive to establish a proactive solution to a very real rural nursing shortage.”

Frank Phillips College President Jud Hicks said, “This group of rural health care leaders have come together in recent months to create a wonderful opportunity for individuals in rural communities to obtain an education and have a fulfilling career where they currently reside.”

Nationwide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that the demand for nurses is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, compared to 7 percent growth across all other occupations.

Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies projects that the supply of nurses will continue to fall short of demand over the next decade, particularly among rural hospitals because the large hospitals in urban areas are generally closer to nursing schools.

The RNEC Hospital Districts will provide financial support for the students and Colleges, and space and supplies to facilitate the programmatic offerings. They also will employ qualified nursing faculty, as needed, to support the students throughout their clinical experiences.

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