Published Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:45 pm
World-Herald Editorial: UNMC's 500-mile-wide campus

The University of Nebraska Medical Center is headquartered in Omaha, but it has a statewide mission. UNMC stands as a key resource in addressing Nebraska’s health challenges.

One challenge is the nursing shortage in rural areas. In 2011, Nebraska nursing schools turned away 400 qualified applicants for lack of space. By 2020, it’s projected that Nebraska will face a shortage of 3,800 nurses statewide. A particular concern is acute care in rural areas.

Nursing programs across the state have been working to address the problem. Through what Chancellor Harold Maurer calls its mission as a “500-mile-wide campus,” UNMC has taken strategic steps to help. UNMC has had undergraduate and graduate nursing education program in Scottsbluff/Gering since 1987, and the med center opened its nursing division in Norfolk in 2010. UNMC has coordinated rotations of students in rural areas across the state, with more than 800 rotations annually.

Now NU has taken another important step forward by expanding its medical training offerings at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

At UNK, the UNMC College of Nursing will expand its bachelor’s of science in nursing and its graduate program for nurse practitioners. The UNMC School of Allied Health Professionals will bring to the UNK campus new programs for physician assistants, physical therapists, clinical laboratory scientists, radiographers and diagnostic medical sonographers.

As part of the project, the Legislature provided $15 million toward construction of a Health Science Education Complex on the UNK campus. In addition, $4 million in private and other funding will come from UNK, including a $1 million donation the university received from Kearney-based Good Samaritan Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives.

Sound planning, strong cooperative efforts, smart investments in facilities and training — all are key ingredients if Nebraska is to meet many of its statewide challenges. UNMC’s laudable strengthening of its educational programs for rural communities stands as a sterling example of that vision.

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