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New Nursing Program Brings Opportunities and Change to Pitt-Greensburg

by Bri Filer

With science related majors on the rise, and the demand for nurses prevalent in Westmoreland County, Pitt-Greensburg is introducing the new four year nursing program in the upcoming fall semester.

The program is coming at a crucial time, as a majority of incoming students are science related majors. 48% of the freshman class who entered last fall who declared their major were majoring in the sciences. Not only is there interest for the sciences, but there is a demand, especially for nursing.

“About two years ago, I had known as just an interested citizen, that there has been a growing nursing shortage nationally. I learned firsthand from the chief nursing officer at Excela that this nursing shortage was hitting Westmoreland County severely. And there was an opportunity there for us to launch a nursing program,” said Sharon Smith, president of Pitt-Greensburg and chair on the Excela Health Board.

Credentials have changed over time for nursing and there is an emphasis for nurses who have obtained their bachelor’s degree.

“I knew there was this major opportunity because there was no full bachelor’s programs resident in Westmoreland County,” said Smith.

As a bachelors nursing program partnered with Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing, ranked 12 in the world, there are more open positions for students interested in nursing at a superior level as Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing receives anywhere from 1,400 to 1,800 applications per year and only has 145 slots available.

“By joining in partnership with them, using their curriculum and their standards, when our nursing program launches it is ranked 12 in the world as well because it is under their accreditation. And that is not a small achievement to have,” said Smith.

The program has a target goal of admitting 25 students in the fall, seeing that target number rise to 40 in the subsequent years, and eventually seeing the program admit a class of registered nurses who are completing their bachelor’s degree. The tuitions of the nursing students will support the program and provide the base for the opportunities hoping to arise from the nursing program.

“We know that what we call Meds and Eds fueled the transformation of Allegheny County, we know that Excela is the largest employer in Westmoreland County, so I wanted to bring those opportunities here for our students,” said Smith.

“Opportunities for us to partner with a superior partner, need for trained professionals in nursing, opportunities for students who would want to become nurses, opportunities for our students who want to major in an area that leads to good employment opportunities and meeting a significant need in the community because Westmoreland is one of the oldest counties in Pennsylvania, and with an aging population it has need for medical care so we meet the community needs at the same time,” said Smith.

The addition of the new major also brings along with it physical changes to campus, notably Smith Hall. Immediate renovations are taking place in a lab of Smith Hall to accommodate for hospital beds and associated equipment in order to have clinical labs, as that is a requirement of the nursing program. Down the road though, around the fall of 2019, more noticeable renovations will be made in order to expand for the growing science programs.

“The really exciting thing is with this dramatic shift in interest for health related and scientific  programs, Smith Hall is bursting at the seams. There will be a new science building connected to the South of Smith Hall and the parking lot is disappearing. A 67,000 square foot, state of the art, science building is going to be built there connected to Smith Hall by a two story glass atrium,” said Smith.

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