Planned Viterbo building will address future nursing needs

2010-05-27T00:00:00Z Planned Viterbo building will address future nursing needsBy KJ LANG | La Crosse Tribune

Viterbo University announced plans Wednesday to build a new $15.8 million nursing facility that will be double the size of its Brophy Nursing Center.

The 68,770-square-foot building will be on 10th Street between the Fine Arts Center and Brophy, Viterbo’s nursing school since 1970.

Viterbo already has raised $12 million for the facility. Fundraising will continue with an alumni drive and additional outreach to benefactors, officials said.

The project comes at a time when nurses are in demand nationally and hospitals are bracing for a nursing shortage.

About half of nurses nationwide are expected to retire over the next decade, said Silvana Richardson, dean of Viterbo’s School of Nursing. But Brophy’s limited space means Viterbo can’t admit all of the qualified nursing applicants, she said.

“We’ve definitely outgrown our facility,” Richardson said.

An aging population, more patients with complex medical conditions and increasing technology in the field will require more nurses and additional classroom experience, said Diane Holmay, vice president of nursing at Franciscan Skemp Healthcare.

“Viterbo is really stepping up to the changes we will need addressed in our practice setting,” she said.

Mary Lu Gerke, Gundersen Lutheran’s vice president of nursing, said she’s excited to collaborate with Viterbo on a facility that also will offer continuing nursing education.

The new facility, to be completed by fall 2011, will allow Viterbo to increase nursing enrollment by 25 percent over the next five years.

The program now has more than 700 students. About one-third of Viterbo nurses remain in the region for their first job, officials said.

The building will have four simulation labs, three lecture halls, 11 multi-purpose classrooms/labs, plus labs for computer testing, nutrition and dietetics, and community health. It also will have four seminar rooms.

The new center’s design also reflects Viterbo’s Franciscan values, such as having an outdoor healing garden and an indoor meditation room, Richardson said.

“This facility will allow us to promote the healing of mind, body and soul,” she said.

Brophy, built in 1955 as a Catholic grade school, will be converted for other uses, Viterbo President Rick Artman said.

Sister Mary Ann Gschwind, chairwoman of Viterbo’s board of trustees, said some words came to her mind after the board approved the building.

“They were ‘big,’ ‘bold’ and ‘brave,’” she said. “In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, ‘We did what was ours to do.’”

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