Board approval clears way for new Health Science Education Complex at UNK

Kelly Bartling, assistant vice chancellor for communications and community relations, UNK, 308-865-8455,; Tom O’Connor, senior associate director, UNMC Department of Public Relations, 402-559-4690,

Kearney, Neb., March 15, 2013 – The University of Nebraska Board of Regents today approved construction of a $19 million Health Science Education Complex at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. UNK will expand its collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to meet growing demands for primary and rural health care.

“The Board of Regents’ approval of this complex will change UNK forever,” UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said. “We are excited about the new opportunities for our students.”

At the new facility at UNK the UNMC College of Nursing will expand its bachelor’s of science in nursing and its graduate program for nurse practitioners. The UNMC School of Allied Health Professionals will bring to the UNK campus new programs for physician assistants, physical therapists, clinical laboratory scientists, radiographers and diagnostic medical sonographers.

The new state-of-the-art building will be at the corner of Highway 30 and University Drive, just west of the West Center Building on the UNK campus. The Regents also approved today the selection of RDG Planning and Design to provide consultant services for the facility.

Construction is set to start by January 2014 with proposed completion of construction by June 2015.

Initial planning is for a 30,000-square-foot building, constructed in a manner to enable possible future expansion. Initial building plans include a clinical simulation laboratory, anatomy and physiology laboratories, and technology for distance education, all dedicated to nursing and allied health programs.

The Health Science Education Complex is a component of the Building a Healthier Nebraska Initiative, approved by the Nebraska Legislature in 2012. The Legislature allocated $15 million to fund the construction. Another $4 million in private and other funding will come from UNK, including a $1 million donation the university received in January from Good Samaritan Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives.

“We’re very grateful to the Governor and the Legislature for this important allocation of funds that will make it possible to expand the College of Nursing division at UNK,” said Juliann Sebastian, Ph.D., dean of the UNMC College of Nursing. “It will allow us to better meet the shortage of direct care and advanced practice nurses with a special focus on interprofessional primary care.”

The vision of UNK and UNMC is to build a nationally recognized learning and research environment that promotes education in rural primary care, generates scientific discoveries and new knowledge about rural health, and enhances strategies to promote high-quality primary care in rural communities by creating academic and community partnerships around rural health problems and opportunities.

“This complex and the health programs that will be delivered are the result of the wonderful partnership between UNK and UNMC,” said Charles Bicak, UNK’s senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. “This collaboration leverages the strengths of both institutions. In turn, the beneficiaries are the citizens of central and western Nebraska, and points beyond.”

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics projects a shortage of nearly 1.2 million registered nurses by 2020 and the Nebraska Center for Nursing predicts a shortage of more than 3,800 registered nurses, also by 2020. Eighty percent of the nurses who work in Nebraska have been educated in Nebraska. Similarly, the demand for allied health professionals is expected to increase by 30 percent by 2020, representing 3.6 million available jobs.

The nursing division at Kearney has grown significantly in recent years and now enrolls some 100 undergraduate bachelor’s in nursing and 24 graduate master’s in nursing students, with 15 faculty and five staff. Some 84 percent of graduates from the Kearney division of the College of Nursing seek employment in rural Nebraska.

The UNMC College of Nursing at UNK is currently located in the West Center building and occupies approximately 8,000 square feet of space. It is not sufficient for simulated training, research or growth, nor large enough to accommodate current or future class sizes. Following relocation of Nursing, the space in the West Center building will be repurposed for use by the College of Business Technology.