The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 13, 2014

Promise kept

Nursing announcement reinforces UC’s commitment to Beckley and the region

— The new nursing program to be instituted at the University of Charleston-Beckley is the fulfillment of both a promise and a regional need.

When Mountain State University shut down, so did its nursing program.

When the University of Charleston took over, they assured us the nursing program would be resurrected. Just a year after UC-Beckley was created, the nursing program is back on track.

Thanks to UC-Beckley President Jerry Forster, that pledge has become a reality.

Forster said the university has notified state nursing regulators of the school’s intentions, beginning the accreditation process.

Forster said that in the past year he has discussed nursing with community leaders and hospital administrators. All said nurses were desperately needed to fill shortages in southern West Virginia.

“The University of Charleston has a storied 50-year history when it comes to allied health program and this nursing at UC-Beckley will become the newest chapter,” Forster said.

The restoration of the nursing program at the university is critical on several fronts.

Beckley, with its major hospitals, is rapidly becoming an even more important medical destination for treatment of patients not just from southern West Virginia but from surrounding states, as well.

Whatever the uncertainties surrounding the federal Affordable Care Act and its real-world impact on medical treatment and medical facilities, many experts have predicted nurses will become even more important, not just at hospitals but also in affiliated medical practices.

Additionally, the demographics of West Virginia, at least for now, show that we are becoming older, and medical care for the elderly takes on more significance.

Victor Flanagan, the former chairman of the Raleigh-Beckley Chamber of Commerce and a board member of Appalachian Regional Healthcare, rightly focuses on what this program means not just for state hospitals but in our continued effort to diversify our economy.

“One of the largest needs we have in health care in southern West Virginia is getting qualified nurses. The No. 1 issue is getting qualified nurses,” he said. “BARH and Raleigh General have a great group of nurses, but we need a new group coming in.”

Flanagan, in addition, notes that not only will the program mean additional faculty  and staff will be hired at UC-Beckley, it will allow the health care facilities in Raleigh County to grow and prosper, giving them the capacity to add new services and become even more important to the region.

“Having this program available is a tremendous asset to our facility,” said David Darden, Raleigh General Hospital’s CEO.

“People come to Beckley to shop, they come here to eat and they come here for their health care,” said Rocco Massey, CEO of Beckley-Appalachian Regional Healthcare.

UC-Beckley’s Forster says students are expected to begin classes in the new nursing program in August, with accreditation possible as early as spring of 2016.

So today we salute the synergy of our growing and dynamic medical community, combined with our blossoming university in UC-Beckley, which is becoming such an exciting and crucial asset to our area.

When the best and most vital institutions in the community come together like this, it shows us all what leadership and conviction can achieve.

It shows us promises are kept.