WT celebrates grand opening of new nursing school facility


By Chip Chandler

West Texas A&M University officially celebrated the Oct. 27 grand opening of a facility carefully conceived to increase the University’s already sizeable impact on healthcare in the Texas Panhandle.

The Baptist Community Services Nursing Education Floor opened for classes Aug. 23 at its location on the second floor of the Harrington Academic Hall WTAMU Amarillo Center, 720 S. Tyler St.

On Oct. 27, the move of WT’s Department of Nursing to the Amarillo Center was officially celebrated in a ceremony that included remarks from WT President Walter V. Wendler; Mike Wartes of BCS and High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation; Dr. J. Dirk Nelson, dean of the WT College of Nursing and Health Sciences; and Dr. Holly Jeffreys, department head of WT’s Department of Nursing. Mati Rigsby, who is earning a bachelor of science in public health and a master of public health in epidemiology and biostatistics at Texas A&M University, represented The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents as a student regent.

“WT provides the most highly qualified healthcare professionals in the entire region, and with this new facility, we will increase our ability to meet regional needs, including in rural healthcare, as outlined in our long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World,” Wendler said.

The WT 125 plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, for which High Plains Christian Ministries Foundation’s gift has played a significant role in the $80 million already raised.

The Amarillo Center now houses 250 undergraduate bachelor of nursing students and about 20 nursing faculty and staff. In its 25,000 square feet, the BCS Nursing Education Floor includes state-of-the-art simulation labs and other innovative educational spaces.

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.

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.

“With our move to downtown Amarillo, our Department of Nursing will continue to provide excellent education for students at affordable 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,” Nelson said.

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 RegisteredNursing.org. College Choice recently ranked the online RN to BSN program as the third best in the country, and Online-Bachelor-Degrees.com 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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