Nursing education center will be regional hub of excellence

Nursing Education Center rendering

August 28, 2014

Health care and social services are the highest growth economic development sectors in Rhode Island, encompassing more than 3,200 unique businesses and employing more than 81,000 people, according to data from the R.I. Department of Labor and Training. Significant long-term demand for registered nurses is also predicted, with nearly 4,400 openings for registered nurses projected over the next decade.

That is why restoring the abandoned South Street Power Station into a state-of-the-art Nursing Education Center – where URI and Rhode Island College will share facilities – is a strategic and savvy use of this long-neglected space. Located at the junction of the state’s major hospitals, the NEC will catalyze existing teaching and research, create new synergies, and foster productive collaborations. The opening of this 133,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, slated for 2016, is an important step in creating a health care hub for the region, and has strong support from the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Commerce RI, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Center for Nursing Excellence, and city and state leaders.

The Rhode Island General Assembly, Board of Education and State Properties Committee vetted and approved the state’s 15-year lease with developer CV Properties, LLC with an option to purchase after six years.

Dean of the College of Nursing Mary Sullivan and RIC Dean of Nursing Jane Williams are working with CV Properties to ensure that the NEC’s design respects the integrity of each school’s nursing program. The NEC will integrate the most advanced technologies – including simulation labs and mock hospital rooms – into each school’s respective nursing curriculum. Students will confront and solve real-life healthcare challenges in a low-risk, high-tech, realistic learning environment. Further, current Rhode Island nurses will be encouraged to sharpen their skills and meet the demands of today’s constantly changing healthcare landscape through the Center’s continuing education programs.

A shared nursing education program space will increase the capacity of URI and RIC to produce more nursing graduates at the baccalaureate and master’s degree levels. The Center will address the need for additional nursing educators by placing increased emphasis on advanced practice registered nursing. In addition to situating the state’s premier public nursing education programs in one building, the Center includes administrative offices for Brown University, creating a unique public private higher education partnership.

Dean Sullivan notes, “The NEC allows us to imagine a bright future for health education and healthcare in our state and the New England region. Eliminating duplicative resources while allowing each school to offer and accomplish more than it could on its own, the NEC will be an example of the whole far exceeding the sum of its parts.”

According to a report produced by independent economic analysts at Appleseed, the project is expected to have a positive short- and long-term economic impact on the city and state, creating more than 1,500 construction-related jobs, a total of $248 million in economic output, and more than $90 million in employee compensation. Once completed and fully operational, the project is intended to offer opportunities for the residents of Providence and Rhode Island, enhance nursing education, and create jobs in a range of sectors from commercial start-ups to retail and service sectors.