11:57 AM

Making a difference for Valley healthcare

South Texas College teams up with Valley ISDs in an effort to increase capable nurses into the workforce

In attempt to address a significant nursing shortage in the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College is creating a pipeline to prepare even more nurses going into the healthcare profession.

A gathering of at least three school districts in the region, together with STC, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and Region One Education Service Center officially kicks off a professional nursing dual enrollment project called Project Health Education and Leadership for All (Project HEAL2).

The project aims to make a significant impact for high school students interested in a health professions career.

“We are trying to develop a pipeline to prepare more nurses, and we can’t do it without more faculty,” said STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed. “These young people embarking on this journey have the potential to be a registered nurse, then go on and eventually be a faculty member at a nursing school. There is no limit to what they can do.”

The Region One Education Service Center, together with STC, La Joya ISD, PSJA ISD, South Texas ISD and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance are recipients of a $3 million Investing in Innovation grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

At least 50 students from the participating ISDs now have the opportunity to enroll in the first-year college pre-requisite courses at STC, putting them on a path to receiving an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) while earning a high school diploma.

Upon graduation from high school, Project HEAL2 students are eligible to apply for admission to STC’s ADN program for second year nursing content. Each participating school district is guaranteed 20 slots into the ADN program for qualified students.

“Our program is a tough program,” Dr. Reed said. “Nursing is one of the most challenging we have at the college, but it’s also the most rewarding and fulfilling. It leads to a good paying job and great career, but don’t underestimate the kind of preparation, discipline, hard work and sacrifices the students are going to make to be successful.”

Recently, STC honored eight students from South Texas who are the first in the nation to graduate with an Associate Degree in Nursing before they exit high school.

First approved by the Texas Board of Nursing on July 23, 2015, PSJA’s Nursing Career Pathway Program is the first in the nation to address the growing need for registered nurses by providing a college-level associate degree to qualified high school students free of charge.

The rigorous program is possible thanks to a partnership with South Texas College, Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance and the Region One Education Service Center.

In addition to providing unique educational and career opportunities, Project HEAL2 will also help to address the nursing shortage in the Rio Grande Valley. As of 2016, the RN facility vacancy rate in the Valley was the highest in Texas, and only 14.8 of nurses are Hispanic/Latino.

“This does not mirror the population in the state and nationwide,” said Dr. Jayson Valerio, Interim Dean at the Nursing & Allied Health Division at South Texas College. “Looking at the RN FTE supply and demand for the RGV by 2015-2030, our region will need more RNs than anywhere else in the state.

“Project HEAL will increase the pipeline of students going into the nursing professions, enhance the academic preparation for Associate Degree in Nursing, increase the rate of high school graduation, and produce more cultural diversity in the nursing workforce,” Valerio said.

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