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UTRGV plans to expand nursing school to Pharr

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The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is expanding its nursing school to the city of Pharr.

With nursing shortages across the nation and limited enrollment in some local programs, the interim dean for the UTRGV School of Nursing says this expansion comes at a time of critical need.

READ ALSO: UT Health RGV to build cancer and surgery center in McAllen  

"This new building will give us the capacity to really step up what we're doing in terms of simulation, what we're doing in terms of our labs," said Dr. Mary Jane Lewitt, interim dean of the UTRGV School of Nursing. "And it gives us additional classroom space, so that we can enroll more students across all of our programs."

The added space will go up next to the Pharr EMS headquarters off 2800 Cage Boulevard. Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez says construction is scheduled to finish within 12 months, with some of the biggest challenges already being tackled.

“First problem we have is we don't have enough slots for our nursing students. Second, we don't have enough professors and we don't have enough infrastructure,” Dr. Hernandez said. “Well, the city of Pharr, UTRGV and other partners want to alleviate that problem."

In 2019, over 700 qualified applicants didn’t get in the nursing program. With expansions like these, university officials feel confident growth and opportunities will help students and the local health systems.

"It is a partnership to enhance the career path for nursing,” Dr. Hernandez said. “We know we've always had a shortage, but now we have a critical shortage during the pandemic, and the city of Pharr has always invested in human capital and this is a great way for us to invest in our students."

According to Dr. Lewitt, there are 6,000 nurses across the Valley. But the need is at an all-time high.

"That shortage is not projected to decrease through 2032; this is according to the Texas Center for the Nursing Workforce Studies, and right now there is about 10 nursing programs in the Valley at this point in time," Dr. Lewitt said. 

Those programs train close to 1,500 students per year.

"And it will also allow us to expand our nursing enrollment in the baccalaureate, masters and doctoral level," Lewitt said. 

The expansion is part a $2 million grant by the CARES act fund directly allocated for the UTRGV School of Nursing.

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