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Amid nursing shortage, WKCTC launches campaign to invest in training future healthcare staff

Liam Niemeyer
WKCTC President Anton Reece speaks before the audience at the campaign launch.

West Kentucky Community and Technical College is launching a campaign to raise $3 million dollars to educate future nurses, surgical technicians and other healthcare staff.

The “HealthCare COUNTS'" fundraising campaign comes as Kentucky hospitals have faced staffing shortages amid the latest wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Staffing agencies for travel nurses also have offered Kentucky nurses higher pay to leave for hospitals elsewhere, creating a crush of demand.

WKCTC President Anton Reece said community donations would go toward updating training equipment for students and strengthening the college’s workforce.

“Those machines, those mannequins, etcetera, are incredibly costly,” Reece said. “It takes a village to raise a child. Hopefully today, we will press the envelope that we want a healthy village.”

WKCTC leaders said the funding would not only boost training for nurses but education for other professions through the college like dental assistants, radiographers, surgical technologists and more.

Shari Gholson, dean of nursing and Allied Health Programs at WKCTC, said about 98% of nursing graduates go on to work in the region. She said strengthening the college’s healthcare programs will boost enrollment and provide more nurses to regional hospitals.

“Our programs right now have 100% job placement rate, and we hear that they need more and more,” Gholson said.

Liam Niemeyer
WKCTC Nursing Dean Shari Gholson shows the nursing lab.

She said some of the equipment nursing students use include a “high-fidelity simulator,” where students work on mannequins that can respond to actions -- or inaction -- that a student takes in treatment.

“We're able to simulate some situations, common situations that a new graduate or new nurse might experience in the hospital, and they're already prepared for it because we have simulated that experience,” Gholson said.

Lee Emmons, WKCTC Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Development, said during a presentation to local leaders and hospital representatives the community college was at 60% of the $3 million goal, with a portion of funding received last year coming from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. She said WKCTC aims to raise an additional $1.8 million over the next year.

Baptist Health Paducah President Chris Roty said the local initiative will keep more nurses and other healthcare workers in Kentucky.

“It’s been a time where agencies have attracted nurses in other areas to travel, and they’re offering lots of money to them,” Roty said. “We’ve got to keep them here in Paducah to serve our communities.”

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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