Health Has a New Home


Expansion Increases State-of-the-Art, Hands-on Training for Future Healthcare Professionals

The human body can be unpredictable — especially for nursing students. Students and their instructors can’t exactly schedule medical situations to study in a hands-on learning environment — except in the case of a simulation hospital. Simulation hospitals are controlled laboratory settings in which students are able to explore and interact with everything from births to physical trauma, providing valuable experience to their education.

An extensive simulation hospital is just one feature of South Texas College’s Dr. Ramiro R. Casso Nursing and Allied Health building expansion, which opened to students for the current Spring semester. The $24 million, 90,000-square-foot facility in McAllen is part of the result of 2013’s $159 million bond election.

“We’re just very grateful that the building came about because of the bond, so we’re very grateful to the community for entrusting us with this amount of money not just here at NAH but all over STC,” said Christie Candelaria, chair for the associate degree nursing program at STC.

The new building boasts four stories that bristle with the latest technological advancements, giving students previously untapped opportunities to learn.

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“The new facility holds technology-enriched educational and clinical spaces, and a simulated hospital,” Jayson T. Valerio, dean of the Nursing and Allied Health Division, wrote in an email. “The simulated hospital has 15 simulated clinical spaces including trauma, emergency room, medical surgical, labor and delivery, psychiatric, home health, rehabilitation, nursery, gerontology, pediatric and adult intensive care units, pharmacy laboratory, radiology, sonography, phlebotomy, medical records, respiratory laboratory, physical therapy, and occupational therapy instruction space.”

Mental health nursing simulations were added this year thanks to a grant STC received for them, Candelaria added.

“We are not replacing hospital clinical at all but we are using simulation to enhance it,” she said. “We are now allowed to use up to 50 percent of our clinic time in simulation, so that would help us a lot. In fact, this semester we were able to admit 120 new students because of this expansion. That’s very vital because of the nursing shortage.”

NAH project manager Karen Castillo agreed on the importance of the simulation expansion in the new facility.

“When students go out to the clinics and the hospitals, we hear back from them — some of their feedback is they feel more prepared,” she said. “They feel that a lot of the skills that they have been gathering here while they’re doing simulation has really helped them be better prepared when facing real world situations.”

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Castillo also highlighted the new library on the building’s first floor.

“It is going to provide an increased number of computers, of study rooms and also of textbook materials that would help them in their education,” she said. “It’s really something we are extremely proud of to be able to have such a beautifully designed building that really helps students get their hands-on training.”

Not counting the dual credit students, STC has 1,628 traditional students registered in the dozen nursing and allied health programs this semester, Valerio wrote. This represents a 4 percent increase over 2016 enrollment.

“South Texas College Nursing and Allied Health will continue to be the leader in healthcare

education and produce graduates that are safe and competent and be proactive in meeting the

healthcare needs of our region and across the nation,” Valerio wrote, looking to the future of the program at STC.

And in Valerio’s eyes, it’s a bright future, indeed.

“As the dean of Nursing and Allied Health, I am very fortunate that I am surrounded with a gold mine of talents and dedicated faculty and staff that are open to innovation when it comes to teaching and learning,” he wrote. “We have embraced simulation since 2008 and simulation has been proven to be an effective teaching strategy to train safe, competent, and caring graduate healthcare individuals. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of STC, members of the STC Board of Trustees, community members in both Hidalgo and Starr counties, and the entire STC faculty and staff — especially in the NAH Division — for making this a reality.”

Learn more about STC’s Nursing and Allied Health program by visiting