Tyler Junior College announced last springs plan to construct a new Allied Health and Nursing building, much to the relief of the Allied Health students and faculty. It is no secret that the Pirtle Technology Building has become increasingly cramped with the growing number of students each semester.
“We use every bit of space to work with,” said Cathy Garcia, Nursing Program coordinator. “Because of the space constraints, we have to be creative enough so our lab areas can also be used for lectures.”
Originally thought to be on its way to completion by spring 2011, the main roadblock has remained the same as when the project was first imagined: funding. Although funding for the building has become a top priority for TJC, donors for the project are hard to come by. Without donors, a set date cannot be established for completion, and the growing number of students accepted for the Allied Health programs will eventually plateau.
TJC’s nursing program has already added 20 seats this past summer and 20 more seats this fall to accommodate the growing number of students interested in the program, and they plan on adding more in the future. But even as these numbers grow, the space for expansion does not.
“We don’t even have seats for certain activities, like simulations in labs,” said Rebecca Seeton, department chair of the Nursing program. “The rooms just aren’t big enough.”
Students and faculty alike have voiced the need for such an addition to the campus.
“Some of us are first-year students experiencing all of this sharing between everyone,” first-year nursing student Patricia Clark said. “There’s just no room. We are changing dressings on computers.”
Danielle Woods, a classmate of Clark’s, said, “It’s hard to get a real ‘clinical’ feel. With more space comes more confidence.”
The lack of up-to-date equipment also leaves the students at a slight disadvantage when entering the work force.
“When students are learning with me they are using out-of-date equipment, only to go find jobs and have to relearn the use of in-date equipment,” said Denise Hudson, a professor in the nursing program. “It’s difficult.”
Currently, the nursing program is using four different rooms as lab, lecture and testing rooms between the 230 students currently enrolled in the program. The idea of a new building is exciting to the first-year nursing class because they would be the first class that began in the new Allied Health facility. But it also brings some confusion, as the current students wonder why the Allied Health programs are being overlooked for funding. Boasting an impressive 80 percent retention rate in nursing, along with the attention the Allied Health programs have received for academic excellence, TJC’s Nursing and Allied Health programs can only sit and wait for proper funding to make the dream a reality.
“With TJC’s growing population, as well as the city of Tyler, why wouldn’t you want to put money into a program that is so successful,” said Brindra Lekhraj, first-year nursing student.
Although a donor or a funding package will eventually become available, it will be at a hefty price. According to a report submitted to the TJC Board of Trustees, the new building would be six stories tall and approximately 110,000 square feet, which brings the price tag to $42 million plus. The building will be located on the west side of campus near the medical community of South Fleishel Avenue between East Second and East Fifth streets. The plan includes more up-to-date technology for students and faculty, bigger classrooms, bigger labs for simulations, study areas, conference rooms, and training facilities.
Although the future is uncertain about when this highly anticipated project would begin, students and faculty for the Nursing program are still very appreciative of the opportunities they are given.
“It becomes a culture as a junior college to accept whoever and whatever comes our way, and to make due because it’s the right thing to do,” said Garcia. “We are appreciative for what we have.”