The Daily Gamecock

College of Nursing, Lexington Medical Center partnership aims to address state nursing shortage

<p>The main building of Lexington Medical Center sits at 2720 Sunset Blvd. in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 14, 2024. The College of Nursing is set to open a new 52,000-square-foot facility next to the hospital's campus in fall 2024.</p>
The main building of Lexington Medical Center sits at 2720 Sunset Blvd. in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 14, 2024. The College of Nursing is set to open a new 52,000-square-foot facility next to the hospital's campus in fall 2024.

The College of Nursing is getting a new building, but it won't be on USC's campus. 

The 52,000-square-foot facility is being built next to Lexington Medical Center to instruct students alongside one of USC's medical partners. The facility is on track to be completed by fall 2024, university architect Derek Gruner said.

South Carolina is projected to have one of the most acute nursing shortages in the country by 2030, College of Nursing Dean Jeannette Andrews said. The partnership hopes to address the need by training more nurses. 

"It's a creative partnership and a win-win for both organizations to be able to meet a mutual need in our state," Andrews said. "And we were both at the place and time of readiness to move forward to do something,"

The space is being constructed as "built to suit," meaning that it is built specifically for its future nursing occupants. 

The three-floor building features new classrooms, space for 40 faculty and staff and an upgraded simulation lab. It will also include a student lounge and study spaces, something the USC nursing building lacks. 

The simulation lab is one of the key features of the building, taking up the entire second floor. This makes it three times larger than the current lab at USC.

Fourth-year nursing student Alyssa Massey said the simulation lab is the biggest benefit of the new building due to the updated equipment it provides. 

"We did our ACLS code and it was a different type of defibrillator than we see," Massey said. "We're still able to learn from it, but it's just not necessarily the same equipment (in hospitals) since nursing is always progressing."

Moving the simulation lab to the Lexington Medical campus will allow the current lab to be remodeled into a bio behavioral research space for graduate programs, Andrews said.

"It's really transformative in a lot of ways because (it's) just giving us more space, creates more opportunity, so it's a win-win for everybody," Andrews said.


A sign at Lexington Medical Center directs patients to different areas of the hospital in Columbia, South Carolina on April 14, 2024. The College Nursing is partnering with the hospital to fix the state's nursing shortage.

Lexington Medical approached USC about two years ago to ask how the university's program could expand to help address the nursing shortage in the state. The nursing program has almost doubled in size in the last 10 years, but space and faculty limitations have prevented more growth. 

Andrew said there are three things needed to expand the program — physical space, clinical space and faculty.

"Because there's a nursing shortage, there's a nursing faculty shortage," Andrews said. "I need physical space to train (students) in the classroom and train them — we also train them in our simulation center ... Then I need physical space. I need clinical sites."

Rather than expand the on-campus nursing building, the hospital offered land next to the hospital. USC's nursing program designed the interior of the building to its specification, with Lexington Medical Center fronting most of the money to build it. 

"What we have with Lexington Medical Center is called an academic services agreement where the two parties have this understanding of what each one will do for one another," Gruner said. "Lexington's responsibility primarily is to build this building ... there are Lexington staff that will be actually participating in the teaching of our students."

The medical center will staff students during clinical rotations.  Nursing students are required to go through rotations at different acute care wards, which is where training from hospitals comes in.

"It's more than a building to us because we are working with Lexington nursing staff and nursing leadership to really think about how we train nurses in the hospital," Andrews said. 

Third and fourth-year nursing students and graduate nursing students will have classes there next semester, Andrews said.

Students will travel to Lexington Medical Center for classes and simulations, with free parking being provided next to the building. Andrews said the partnership will help set an example for the future. 

"We hope this is a model for others to help meet the different needs of our state and be creative with how we partner with people," Andrews said.


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