“We’re on a mission”



By: Joey Gomez

PSJA School district and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance  make their move, addressing the future of healthcare in the Rio Grande Valley; one student at a time

In anticipation of the Rio Grande Valley’s future medical school, school districts are teaming up with hospitals and higher-education institutions to address the dire shortage of nurses locally and statewide, according to PSJA superintendent Dr. Daniel King.

PSJA ISD has begun its collaboration with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, South Texas College, Region One ESC and South Texas ISD to train the next generation of nurses in the Rio Grande Valley.

A new pilot program will begin this spring to provide students interested in a nursing career the opportunity to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing through the first ever in the nation dual enrollment program in nursing.Untitled-1

“There has been always been a shortage of doctors, and a medical school is going to increase the number of professionals in related fields,” King said in a phone interview. “We are going to need even more nurses. We’re going to need other kinds of support personnel for the doctor’s offices and the different healthcare facilities.

Dual enrollment programs allow eligible high school students to enroll in college courses while in high school. They are able to complete high school and college-level courses at the same time.

Through the dual enrollment nursing program, PSJA ISD high school sophomores interested in the nursing field will be able to take college courses that can be applied to their Associates Degree in Nursing upon high school graduation.

The dual enrollment program allows for expanded educational opportunities while also addressing the healthcare needs of the region by working to alleviate the nursing shortage that challenges local healthcare providers.

The program will open up an additional 25 slots for nursing students, King said.

“This is a really big deal,” King said. “We all accomplished several things in one. Through this program, we are going to be able to increase the supply of nurses. Even though there is a big nursing shortage in the Valley and statewide, we can start making progress towards this shortage.

“It gives more access to more of our students to a rewarding nursing career because it builds on the programs UTPA and STC already have,” King said.

Nursing_Program_PSJAAlumni_webPSJA began its talks with STC and DHR last spring. They announced the start of the pilot program at a press conference in January. In attendance at that event was U.S. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, D-McAllen, STC president Dr. Shirley Reed, DHR CEO Israel Rocha, South Texas ISD superintendent Dr. Marla Guerra, and Region One ESC deputy director Eduardo Cancino.

Texas and the nation are facing a critical shortage of registered nurses, according to a report by the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies (TCNWS), an organization created by the Texas Legislature to act as a resource for data and research on the nursing workforce statewide.

Texas will not produce sufficient RNs to meet the healthcare demands of Texans through 2020 without major interventions to increase the RN supply, according to the TCNWS’s report entitled “Strategic Plan for the State of Texas To Meet Workforce needs of 2013”.

Texas schools produced 7,031 RN graduates in 2007, but for supply to meet demand, the number of new graduates must grow to 18,000 in 2015 and 25,000 by 2020, according to the study.

Among other findings in the report:

Nurse_Program7_webDemand for RNs is expected to increase  by 86 percent between 2005 and 2020 but supply will only grow by 53 percent.

Increasing capacity in nursing programs will involve acquiring the financial resources to recruit and retain additional qualified faculty and students; acquiring additional clinical instruction sites; and fostering innovative public-private partnerships, according to the TCNWS.

“The partnership between PSJA , South Texas ISD, South Texas College and DHR will no doubt become one of the most beneficial collaborations in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Congressman Hinojosa, ranking member of the Subcommittee of Higher Education and Workforce Training. “This innovative Dual Enrollment Pilot Program will create career opportunities for many of our high school students in the field of nursing.

“Our medical community and our residents will benefit from the advanced education, training and experience that await our students,” the congressman said.