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GSW Nurses will get new facilities

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) – With the down economy many people are returning to school and many of those students are choosing the medical field.

Most people realize that doctors are expected to be in short supply in the coming years. But it's nurses who will be doing much of the frontline work in the medical office of the future.

Like many prospective nursing students, Brandy Pfeiffer got her desire to be a nurse from a young age.

"I always had a passion for being able to care for people.  And I wanted to make sure that I could make a difference in their lives," she said.

The Georgia Southwestern University junior from Tampa, Florida had family ties when it came to choosing a college - her brother goes to GSW - but she also knew about the school's nursing program.

"I knew that they were very vigorous with the coursework and I knew that would also produce a better nurse," she said.

And she has a lot of company.  According to Dr. Sandra Daniel the Dean of the GSW School of Nursing, "we've had about a 93% increase in our graduation rate, numbers of students graduating over the past three years."

But with so many people choosing a nursing major in recent years, problems have begun to develop.

"We are having to move to other buildings on campus," said Dr. Daniel.

 On top of the lack of space was the age of the building that the nursing students were using.

 "This (the nursing) building was constructed in the late '60s, early '70s," said George Smith, the Director of the GSW Physical Plant.

That meant that there were some technological limitations for students in the program.  While they've managed in the old quarters, it was clear that a new building was needed...stat.  And it's been on the drawing board for a while.

"One of my first tasks when I arrived here was to start the program...this was 10 and a half years ago...was to start the programming for the new facility," Smith said.

But times are tough in higher education.  The $14 million dollar project seemed doomed earlier this year when it was left out of the governor's budget proposal.  But a few months ago, GSW officials got an offer from Representative Mike Cheokas.

Dr. Kendall Blanchard recalls the offer: "maybe get half your money this year and half next year."

With the backing of the local delegation, the money for the building stayed in the budget and on Tuesday, Governor Sonny Perdue signed it.  Soon construction will begin to turn this stand of trees into a sparkling new Health and Human Sciences Building.  And the nursing students will occupy the bulk of the new 71,500 square foot facility.  It's all part of the continued growth of the Georgia Southwestern family.

"Our enrollment has grown about 20 per cent in the last two years," said Dr. Blanchard.

And with the new Health and Human Sciences building in place, that family will certainly include many more nurses.

If all goes well, construction will start in December and the building will open in January 2012.

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