(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — The Texas A&M Health Science Center is one step away from having seven components following the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approval to establish a College of Nursing.

The proposed college in Bryan-College Station will offer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program initially, which already has received necessary approval from the A&M System Board of Regents. Both are pending final approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).

There is a severe nursing shortage across Texas, compounded by an existing nursing work force that is aging and ready to retire. The THECB agreed increasing the number of registered nurse graduates was so important as to warrant designation as a specific target of success for Closing the Gaps in 2015: The Texas Higher Education Plan.

“As a health-related institution, establishing a College of Nursing clearly fits within the Health Science Center’s institutional mission of improving the health of Texans,” states supporting material to the A&M System Board of Regents. “At this point in the development of the Health Science Center, it is appropriate to establish a College of Nursing to meet well-documented and critical needs throughout the region and state.”

The nursing program will offer three different “tracks” for the baccalaureate degree. Pending final approval by the THECB, two of these are likely to be available as of fall 2008. One will be a standard generic B.S.N. requiring two years of prerequisite courses and two years of nursing curricula. A second “accelerated” program will be for those who already have earned a bachelor’s degree in a related field and need to complete the nursing curriculum and required clinical experiences. The third track planned for the future will be an R.N.-to-B.S.N. program allowing registered nurses with associate degrees to complete additional course work for the B.S.N.

Projections are 40 B.S.N. full-time students in the first year, growing to a total of 250 students in less than 10 years.

The Health Science Center currently partners with the six nursing programs in the A&M System to expand educational opportunities and programs across Texas. For example, the HSC is temporarily partnering with the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Nursing and Health Sciences to train nursing students in the Bryan-College Station area until the HSC-College of Nursing is approved. The first students as a result of this partnership graduated in December 2006, with another group of students to graduate in December 2007.

Texas A&M Health Science Center facilities in College Station supporting nursing education include a 45-person classroom; skills lab with eight hospital beds, nursing station and medication room; and three rooms designed to simulate a hospital environment equipped with computer-programmed manikins.

Five core faculty currently teach in the accelerated program offered in College Station. Approximately 30 faculty and staff members will be hired over the course of the next five years once the College of Nursing receives final approval.

In the accelerated program offered by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, students complete the required clinical experiences in hospitals and clinical facilities in Bryan, College Station, Corpus Christi and Navasota. These sites will be maintained and others added to support the new program.

Long-range plans include nursing graduate programs such as a collaborative doctoral degree with other A&M System nursing programs. The System does not currently offer a doctorate degree in nursing.

“The extreme shortage of doctoral-prepared nursing faculty has become a significant barrier to an effective response to the nursing work force shortage,” states the supporting material. “Currently, only 2 percent of nurses in the United States have doctorates, yet the need for trained instructors is increasing. Despite nursing schools’ efforts to alleviate the nurse shortage, many are finding the need to turn away qualified and motivated applicants to their programs because of an even more profound instructor shortage.”

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Marketing & Communications