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Groundbreaking project responding to nursing shortage

Carson-Newman University will train nurses to meet health crisis at $20 million Drama & Ted Russell Center.
Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 8:52 AM EDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - New state-of-the-art laboratories, plus varied classroom and study spaces will fill a new 48,000-square-foot health sciences center at Carson-Newman University.

The community broke ground on the new complex Friday morning at North College Street and Branner Avenue in Jefferson City.

Lead donors for the $20 million project, Drama and Ted Russell, were guests of honor at the groundbreaking ceremony attended by East Tennessee dignitaries. The center is named for the couple.

“We have lots of opportunity with this new building for growth,” said Lana Spence, DNP, who chairs the Carson-Newman University’s Nursing Department.

The building has an anticipated completion sometime in 2023 and will be the hub of health science programs on campus.

Spence said the university is already expanding what it offers in nursing education to meet the nation’s nursing shortage.

Fall of 2021 includes 15 spots for students who want to earn a Doctorate of Nursing degree. Around 45 nursing students graduate each spring with a Bachelor’s of Nursing degree, plus more are earning a master’s degree that allows them to work as nurse practitioners.

“Some who are going to be Chief Nursing Officers and they are going to be managing a larger scale project,” said Spence. “Some are nurse practitioners who work in a family clinic. Within their own clinic are doing these quality initiatives and following up and making sure that these interventions are working...it can be tailored to your area of interest and what you are really wanting to focus on.”

Students Pam Smith and Grace Pessemier are both considering continuing with the doctorate program, although they already have marketable skills. Pessemier is entering her senior year as a student, and plans on working as a registered nurse next spring, while continuing with master’s classes.

“Both for sure, I’m definitely looking at labor and delivery in the spring and continuing on.” Smith already has her Master’s degree and is adding to her already 18 years working as a registered nurse, now able to work as a nurse practitioner. “I’m ready to expand and take what I know and put it into a bigger context,” said Smith.

Carson-Newman President Charles Fowler, PhD, reminded attendees to the groundbreaking ceremony that the health sciences project is part of the broader mission of the university. The stated mission is, “to help our students reach their full potential as educated citizens and worldwide servant-leaders.” Fowler prayed, “You directed the steps of leaders that gave definition and shape to this dream.”

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