McALLEN, RGV – South Texas College, in collaboration with South Texas hospitals, is preparing to meet what officials say is a booming demand for registered nurses throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

As part of the Work Force Investment Act, South Texas College has received a grant totaling $146,487 from the Texas Workforce Commission to fund a program that will train registered nurses to serve as mentors to nursing students.

Texas Workforce Commissioner Hope Andrade shakes hands with South Texas College President Shirley A. Reed.
Texas Workforce Commissioner Hope Andrade shakes hands with South Texas College President Shirley A. Reed.

“These funds will allow approximately 73 registered nurses to be trained as mentors,” said STC President Shirley Reed.

Reed made her remarks at a check presentation ceremony held at STC’s Dr. Ramiro R. Casso Nursing and Allied Health Campus in south McAllen.

Reed said STC will work with McAllen Medical Center, Edinburg Children’s Hospital, South Texas Behavioral Center, Mission Regional Medical Center, Solar Hospital, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Rio Grande Regional Hospital and Starr County Memorial Hospital on the project.

According to Hope Andrade, the commissioner representing employers on the Texas Workforce Commission, the new program will provide incentives to eligible registered nurses so they can serve as receptors to nursing students in nursing programs. “The goal of this program is to support hands-on instructions,” Andrade said.

According to TWC, the grant to STC is part of a $500,000 statewide effort to meet the high demand for RNs in Texas. The partnership involves four community colleges in medically underserved areas throughout the state. “The goal of the STC Nursing Mentorship Program is to identify and train preceptors from local acute-care hospitals to allow for growth of the nursing program and provide guidance for nursing students at STC,” STC said, in an advisory about the check presentation.

“The capacity-building grant will be used to prepare and train approximately 73 RNs, increase the number of students admitted to the nursing program and provide increased job retention and improved job satisfaction among newly licensed nurses at local healthcare facilities,” the advisory stated.

Jayson Valerio, STC’s associate degree in nursing program chair, said the need for mentors for nurses is great.

“Nurses in hospitals quit their job within the year of working for the main reason of lack of guidance and lack of mentorship. With this grant, we will be able to train nurses into becoming effective mentors, hoping to resolve the problem of nurse shortage,” Valerio told the Rio Grande Guardian.

STC and its partners plan on preparing nurses for a shortage that is projected hit the state of Texas in the coming years. “According to the National League for Nursing, by the year 2018 the nursing shortage will be intensified because the majority of nurses working right now are between 50 to 55 years old.” Valerio said. “By 2018, baby boomer nurses will be retiring, and we need to replace them.”

Melba Treviño, STC’s interim dean of nursing and allied health, agreed. “We need nurses that are up ready and running the first day they start. This grant will allow health care professionals to advance their careers through specialized training for registered nurses or certification in an allied healthcare program,” Treviño told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Historically, the Valley has done its part in providing nurses to meet Texas’ high demand, STC officials said. However, the demand is growing at a faster rate than the number of nurses earning certification.

“We are the largest provider of nurses and allied professionals south of San Antonio,” said STC President Reed. “Every year, we graduate over 1,000 nurses and health professionals. Of the thousand, over 200 are registered nurses. We are doing our share to respond to the need, but the need is greater. It is growing at a faster rate than we can respond to. That is why this grant is going to make such a difference.”

Reed’s closing remarks emphasized the importance of teamwork. “A strong workforce is the backbone to our state’s economy and the key to our current and future success. But in order to build that, we must continue to work together.”