GREENVILLE — In the latest example of its growing collaboration with Greenville Health System (GHS), Clemson University will expand its nursing program in Greenville – an effort that will more than double enrollment in Clemson’s traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, help meet the growing need for nurses and bolster health innovation and research efforts in the Upstate.

The expanded collaboration, approved in 2016 by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, will help ease an anticipated registered nursing shortage. In its 2014 report, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration indicates that though the earlier gap in supply and demand is easing on a national level, South Carolina is one of 16 states projected to have a shortage of registered nurses by 2025. A 2014 report from the S.C. Office for Healthcare Workforce Analysis and Planning anticipates a shortage of 6,400 registered nurses in South Carolina by 2028.

Clemson-GHS logos“This collaborative initiative by Clemson and GHS will allow the health system to meet the growing need for highly educated and experienced nurses to ensure the highest quality health care for patients, while at the same time strengthening the university’s commitment to vitally important health sciences fields,” Clemson President James P. Clements said. “Clemson is excited about this next step in its partnership with GHS.”

By working together, Clemson and GHS will expand Clemson’s traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program from 352 students to an anticipated 800 students in the next six years. Historically, the School of Nursing has been able to enroll only about 8 percent of its applicants because of limited seats and clinical placements. The nursing program expansion will increase the number of clinical placements within GHS.

“The School of Nursing is thrilled to work with Greenville Health System to develop a collaboration that will not only expand our enrollment but will also provide an opportunity to integrate teaching and clinical practice in innovative ways that will positively impact nursing education and patient outcomes,” said Kathleen Valentine, director of Clemson University’s School of Nursing and GHS chief nursing academic officer. “The clinical immersion experiences afforded this cohort of students will make them attractive as future employees.”

Architect's rendering of the building.

Architect’s rendering of the building.

Students are expected to begin coursework at GHS’ Greenville Memorial Medical Campus site in fall 2018, after completing their first two years at the Clemson campus. The program will be housed in a new four-story, 78,255-square-foot clinical learning and research building at GHS that offers a hospital-like environment with virtual reality IV simulators and high-fidelity human patient simulators, classrooms and offices.

The building also will include space for academic collaboration. More than 90 Clemson faculty health researchers are already working across the GHS campuses with clinicians on projects with immediate potential impact for patients.

The building will cost approximately $31.5 million and is being funded initially by Hughes Development Corp., which has a ground lease with GHS for the property where it will be built. GHS, which will continue to own the land, will enter into a fair-market-value space lease with Hughes for occupancy of the building. GHS anticipates more than $33 million in savings from reductions in supplemental staffing, nurse turnovers and residency/training programs in the next 10 years thanks to the program.

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

Clemson President James P. Clements (center, left) and GHS President Spence Taylor share congratulations at the groundbreaking.

Clemson President James P. Clements (center, left) and GHS President Dr. Spence Taylor share congratulations at the groundbreaking.
Image Credit: Craig Mahaffey / Clemson University

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 430,000 additional registered nurses will be needed between 2014 and 2024 – an increase of 16 percent. Reasons for the dramatic growth include the health care industry’s focus on preventative care, the increasing numbers of patients with chronic health issues and additional health care demands generated by the Baby Boomer population.

Equal to the demand for nurses is the need for nurses with baccalaureate training and education –- a move to help the profession meet its increasing challenges. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 80 percent of nurses have a bachelor’s degree by 2020. Recent research indicates that a greater percentage of registered nurses in hospitals results in improved patient outcomes, Valentine noted.

For GHS and other healthcare providers, having highly educated nurses already  acclimated and ready to step into their jobs will mean better patient care, said Michelle Taylor-Smith, GHS’ vice president of patient care services, chief nursing officer and chief experience officer.

“This collaboration leverages the resources, expertise and strengths of both GHS and Clemson to better meet the needs of our community — both in terms of a prepared workforce and providing high-quality care for patients,” she said.

The new approach also will allow for a unique interprofessional education since GHS educates thousands of students each year — medical students, pharmacy students, allied health students and nursing students.

“The hope is to educate these students together to advance our goal of having a truly collaborative practice,” said Taylor-Smith. “Studies plainly show that interprofessional teams working together create a better patient experience and better outcomes.”

Collaboration and interprofessional training are cornerstones of the initiative. Even the research and learning facility’s architecture will parallel its collaborative mission, with the new building linked by a two-story connector with the nearby University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, itself a collaborative project between GHS and USC. The connector will be lined with classrooms, offices and collaborative space to facilitate a team-oriented approach to education, innovation and research. Early goals include training medical students and nursing students to round together on patients, which will lessen redundant rounding but also improve care by having a more clearly unified care plan that reduces the possibility of miscommunication.

“This is going to be a whole new way of thinking,” said Dr.  Taylor, a practicing vascular surgeon who sees the interprofessional approach as an exciting new teaching model that could spread nationwide.

“As GHS continues to redefine the future of health care, we require a different type of workforce,” he said. “Expanding our collaboration with Clemson University will help us meet this need. Together, we are redesigning health care education and practice to better address changing demands.”

GHS officials said the nursing program’s expansion in Greenville is another example of the benefit of the shared academic health center approach created by GHS, Clemson and other partners. Under this model, Clemson is GHS’ primary research partner.

“Together, we not only better meet the healthcare needs of the communities we serve, but we increase innovative research initiatives focused on real-world patient care issues and create new workforce development programs to overcome health professions shortages,” said Dr. Taylor.

Clemson and GHS have partnered in nursing education for the past 50 years to provide needed clinical experiences for approximately 3,500 Clemson nursing students.

Valentine said the School of Nursing’s collaboration with GHS also will expand the number of master’s degree students placed with practicing nurses who will guide their clinical learning.

With the baccalaureate program expansion, Clemson Bachelor of Science in Nursing students will take general education and nursing foundation courses on the university’s main campus during their freshman and sophomore years. In their junior and senior years, approximately half of the nursing student body will take courses at GHS and complete their clinical rotations at one or more of Greenville Health System’s participating seven campuses. Clemson will pay programming fees to GHS as part of the agreement.

Greenville-based Batson Associates is the architect for the project, and Greenville-based Brasfield & Gorie, LLC, is the general contractor.