The Clemson University Nursing building houses an expansion of Clemson's undergraduate nursing program.

The Clemson University Nursing building houses an expansion of Clemson’s undergraduate nursing program.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

GREENVILLE, South Carolina — The Clemson University Nursing building, a 78,000-square-foot education and research facility housing an expansion of Clemson’s baccalaureate nursing program at Greenville Health System (GHS), opened Tuesday.

A collaborative effort between GHS and the Clemson University School of Nursing, the program expansion will help meet a growing need for nurses and bolster health innovation and research efforts in the Upstate. Classes begin Wednesday at the four-story, $31.5 million building, which is located on GHS’ Greenville Memorial Medical Campus.

The high-tech facility is adjoined to the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine Greenville by a two-story connector to foster interprofessional education.

“I am very proud of this collaboration with GHS, which is going to make an incredible difference for the students and faculty in our School of Nursing,” said Clemson President James P. Clements. “This collaboration will also make a huge difference for the health care industry by helping address the nursing shortage. It is a great example of how we are continuing to fulfill Thomas Green Clemson’s vision of serving the people of our state and beyond.”

South Carolina is one of seven states projected to have a shortage of registered nurses by 2030, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. South Carolina’s nursing shortage is expected to top 10,000, one of only four states expected to have that significant a shortage, according to the report.

Complicating the issue is a growing national demand for nurses with a baccalaureate degree in nursing, as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) recommends that 80 percent of nurses have a bachelor’s degree by 2020. Ultimately, this joint effort will address the looming nursing shortage with capable, well-prepared professionals, said GHS President Spence Taylor, MD.

“This innovative collaboration will help ensure that GHS and the entire region and beyond have high-quality nurses in spite of a nursing shortage,” Taylor said. “Not only will we be able to educate and graduate more practice-ready baccalaureate nursing students, but we’ll be able to recruit and retain more nurses because of the additional options open to them.”

The building features several tiered classrooms for students.

The building features several tiered classrooms for students.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Together, GHS and Clemson are uniquely positioned to address the factors that fuel the nursing shortage, including the challenge of identifying and retaining nursing faculty, a lack of undergraduate placements compared to the interest of prospective students and decreased access to a clinical learning environment, said Lori Stanley, GHS’ chief nursing officer for its central region and vice chair for nursing academics.

Clemson’s baccalaureate nursing program has had significant growth in applications over the past decade, becoming one of the most competitive areas to enter the university as an undergraduate. Because of the new building, the School of Nursing was able to increase freshman enrollment from 64 in fall 2015 to 173 in fall 2018, said Kathleen Valentine, director of the School of Nursing, associate dean of the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and GHS’ nursing academic officer. By fall 2021, the School of Nursing’s baccalaureate program is anticipated to reach a maximum capacity of 704 students, an increase from 256 in fall 2015. This expansion does not include graduate degree, accelerated second degree and registered nurse-to-Bachelor of Science programs.

“The collaboration will not only expand our enrollment but will also integrate teaching and clinical practice in innovative ways that will positively impact nursing education and patient outcomes as well as provide an opportunity to build on our designation as a Center of Nursing Excellence,” Valentine said.

With the program expansion, students take their general education and nursing foundation courses on the university’s main campus during their freshman and sophomore years.

After that, they are placed into one of two cohorts. One cohort will take their nursing courses at the Clemson University Nursing building under the guidance of Clemson faculty and complete their clinical rotations across multiple GHS campuses. These students will take summer courses and graduate in December rather than May. The other cohort will take junior and senior nursing courses on Clemson’s main campus and complete their clinical rotations at health systems across the Upstate, including GHS, and will graduate in May.

The Clemson University Nursing building offers a hospital-like environment using high-fidelity human patient simulators.

The Clemson University Nursing building offers a hospital-like environment using high-fidelity human patient simulators.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Constructed by Brasfield and Gorrie and designed by Batson Associates, the Clemson University Nursing building offers a hospital-like simulation environment with high-fidelity human patient simulators. The simulation lab space and equipment in the building contributes to the expansion of the Greenville HealthCare Simulation Center, a multidisciplinary center serving the USC School of Medicine Greenville and other GHS-affiliated teaching programs as well as community-based health care providers and workforce development and pipeline programs. The combined simulation laboratories in the USC School of Medicine Greenville and Clemson University Nursing building will represent one of the largest simulation centers in the country at approximately 30,000 square feet.

This collaboration is made possible through the GHS Health Sciences Center, a shared academic health center established in partnership with GHS, Clemson, Furman University and USC to address health concerns, workforce needs and health delivery gaps. GHS works with its academic partners to help educate thousands of students each year at GHS sites, including nursing, medical, pharmacy and allied health students.

“The vision of the GHS Health Sciences Center is to transform the health of our communities, but, of course, that is impossible without the necessary workforce and care-transforming research to affect change,” said Brenda Thames, executive vice president and provost of the Health Sciences Center. “All of our HSC partners are vital as we grow our workforce needs through effective education programs and work together to transform patient care through innovative clinical and translational research.”

Nursing students celebrate during the grand opening of the Clemson University Nursing building at GHS.

Nursing students celebrate during the grand opening of the Clemson University Nursing building at GHS.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

The Health Sciences Center’s mission is to “improve the well-being of our communities through collaborative education, inquiry and innovation,” said Thames. “Key to our success is shared space and resources that remove barriers and foster collaboration.” For example, the connector between the Clemson University Nursing building and USC School of Medicine Greenville is home to creative collaborative spaces that will facilitate a team-oriented approach to education, research and innovation among all four Health Sciences Center partners.

The connection between the School of Nursing, USC School of Medicine Greenville and the Health Sciences Center provides a springboard for interdisciplinary educational opportunities among nursing, medical, pharmacy and other health professions students that ultimately imitate their future work environment, said Thames. Early goals of the interprofessional education include learning opportunities in which medical students and nursing students understand their shared role in patient care.

The building also houses offices for researchers involved with the Clemson University School of Health Research, a multidisciplinary unit designed to accelerate growth in health-related research and education. More than 90 faculty researchers are working across multiple GHS campuses with clinicians on projects with immediate potential impact for patients.

The building also provides space for graduate nursing students earning master’s or doctoral degrees.

Clemson graduate nursing students will also benefit from the efforts of Clemson and GHS, as advanced practice nursing students have priority clinical rotations within the GHS system to be prepared to care for rural and vulnerable populations. According to the South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce, 14 percent of nurse practitioners in South Carolina practice in rural areas. This initiative will help increase the number of nurses in rural areas and increase patient access to care.

The Clemson University Nursing building was funded initially by Hughes Development Corp., which has a ground lease with GHS for the property where it was built. GHS, which will continue to own the land, has entered into a fair-market-value space lease with Hughes for occupancy of the building. Clemson University is sharing the cost of this investment. As a result of the expanded program, GHS anticipates more than $33 million in savings from reductions in supplemental staffing, nurse turnover and residency/training programs in the next 10 years.

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GHS Health Sciences Center
The GHS Health Sciences Center established formal partnerships between GHS and the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and Furman University. All academic health centers are comprised of an integrated health care delivery system, a medical school, one other health professions program and partners with multiple affiliate universities and degree-granting academic institutions to address health concerns, workforce needs and health care delivery gaps of a defined region. The GHS Health Sciences Center differs from a traditional academic health center in that it strategically leverages the existing competencies and resources of its partners rather than duplicating costly infrastructure to meet shared objectives.

Clemson University School of Nursing
The Clemson University School of Nursing is committed to prepare nurses for professional practice, leadership in health care and to advance nursing knowledge. The school offers a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, a Ph.D. in healthcare genetics, a doctor of nursing practice, Master of Science in nursing, an accelerated second degree nursing program and an RN/BS completion program as well as a global health certificate program.

Greenville Health System
Greenville-based Greenville Health System (GHS) has partnered with Columbia-based Palmetto Health to form a not-for-profit health care delivery system serving 1.2 million patients annually across South Carolina. The new name and graphic identity are expected to be announced later this year. GHS offers patients an innovative network of clinical integration, expertise and technologies through its academic health system, eight medical campuses, tertiary medical center, research and education facilities, community hospitals, physician practices and numerous specialty services. GHS, by itself a 1,627-bed system, is home to 16 medical residency and fellowship programs, as well as partnership efforts such as the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and the Clemson University Nursing Building. Visit ghs.org to learn more.