By Chip Chandler

A new era in nursing education in the Texas Panhandle will dawn Monday with the official opening of West Texas A&M University’s newest facility.

The Baptist Community Services Nursing Education Floor will host its first students as classes begin on all WT campuses, including its location on the second floor of the Harrington Academic Hall WTAMU Amarillo Center, 720 S. Tyler St.

“High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation made an extraordinarily generous gift to us this spring, an invaluable contribution to the significant investment made in nursing education by both WT and The Texas A&M University System,” said WT President Walter V. Wendler. “Thanks to this commitment, WT will continue to provide the most highly qualified healthcare professionals in the entire region through a centralized location in downtown Amarillo.”

In August 2020, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents gave final approval to spend $6.5 million to renovate the Amarillo Center’s second floor. The move will place 250 undergraduate bachelor of nursing students and approximately 20 nursing faculty and staff in Amarillo, and it will offer greater opportunities for collaboration between the nursing program and other WT programs including communication disorders, the Panhandle Area Education Center and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Established in 1974, WT’s Department of Nursing in its College of Nursing and Health Sciences currently provides about 70 percent of nurses employed throughout the Texas Panhandle.

“With our move to downtown Amarillo, our Department of Nursing will provide excellent education for students at reasonable costs to both students and the state, and our student nurses and faculty members will be more available to contribute to both the Amarillo-area health community and to the overall wellbeing of the Texas Panhandle,” said Dr. J. Dirk Nelson, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

WT nursing graduates, over the past five years, have averaged a 97 percent score on the National Council Licensure Examination, required by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to test the competency of nursing school graduates in the United States and Canada. Nationally, the average is 85 percent; in Texas, it’s 87 percent.

Among other recent accolades, the WT nursing practitioner program was named the best in Texas by Nursing Process. WT’s family nurse practitioner program was ranked No. 4 in the country by College Choice recently ranked the online RN to BSN program as the third best in the country, and also recently named WT one of the 10 best online nursing schools in the country.

WT faculty and students engage in nursing outreach including the semiannual Inner City Health Fair. Through these health fairs, WT nursing students provide health screenings, immunizations, hygiene products, food, and other services to the homeless population in Amarillo. Additionally, the Department operates the WT Nursing Health & Wellness Clinic. Services offered through this facility include annual wellness visits, acute sickness visits, flu immunizations and medication administration, such as recurring injections — all with no copay.

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