LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)- The Viterbo nursing program enrolls over 700 students each year.
The nursing program was established in 1971.
Currently, the university graduates the most four-year nurses of any private college in Wisconsin, some of which stay in the area.
Viterbo President Rick Artman says, "Our best estimate is about 35% of our graduates in nursing stay in the Seven Rivers Region, over three hundred are employed at Gundersen, over two hundred are employed at Franciscan Skemp, over a hundred at Mayo Clinic, and some of the other places around."
The school plans to increase enrollment in all areas of their nursing program, which will help address the nursing shortage problem in the country.
Dean of the School of Nursing Silvana Richardson says, "There is definitely a nursing shortage that is coming with more and more nurses really reaching that retirement age. There's been a little bit of a plateau that has happened in the last couple of years with the economy, but that retirement is really looming so we will need more nurses."
However, Viterbo University faced a problem.
The school's nursing program had outgrown its facility.
Dean of the School of Nursing Silvana Richardson says, "We need larger classrooms, especially laboratory space."
And the school wanted to expand its nursing program, but expanding the building wasn't cost effective.
Artman says, "Less expensive to build a new building than it was to try to retrofit a building that was built in the 1950's as an elementary school."
So, that's exactly what the university is doing- building a new facility.
Among its many features the facility will have three lecture halls, eleven classrooms/labs, faculty offices, and a healing garden.
The center will also have four simulation labs.
Viterbo University held a press conference to announce the construction of the new state-of-the-art nursing center.
Officials say the facility will provide a better clinical experience for Viterbo students.
The new facility will be more than 68 thousand square feet, making it the largest Viterbo building project in over forty years.
But, more importantly it will double the space for nursing students so they can learn in a better environment.
The nursing center will be located in the Southeast corner of campus where a parking lot is currently.
There are no long term plans for the current nursing facility, but it will be used as a transitional place.
The center will cost 15.8 million dollars.
When they started building plans, it was expected to cost 20 million dollars, but due to economic conditions, the university will be able to save money.
More than 70% of the money needed to finish the project has been raised already.
Officials hope to secure the remaining amount through an alumni drive and additional outreach to benefactors.
Officials hope that construction can begin this summer.
They say they have been working with an architect for a couple of years.
The center is expected to open next Fall.
It will be LEED Silver Certified and energy efficient.
The center will also provide space for continuing education and professional development for area nurses and health professionals.
The architects that designed Viterbo's simulation labs are the same architects that designed the ones at Mayo Clinic.
To find out more about the progress of the Viterbo's School of Nursing go to www.viterboisnursing.com.
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