MCALLEN, RGV – The interim dean at South Texas College took advantage of a question and answer session at a Texas Workforce Commission event to highlight the Rio Grande Valley’s nursing shortage.

The event was billed as a Regional Stakeholders Meeting and was held at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. Hosting the event were TWC Commissioners Andres Alcantar and Julian Alvarez. They asked 15 experts in the fields of workforce development, public and higher education, and local industry, to speak for eight to ten minutes.

Jayson Valerio, interim dean for nursing and allied health at South Texas College, was in the audience. When TWC Chairman Alcantar asked if there was anyone in the audience that wished to speak, Valerio put his hand up.

Jayson Valerio

Valerio started by thanking Commissioner Alvarez for always providing the workforce data he needs when he testifies before the Texas Board of Nursing or the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “They want evidence-based data,” Valerio said.

Valerio said that whenever he goes to Austin he always stresses the collaborative efforts being made in the Rio Grande Valley to address the healthcare and workforce development needs “of a growing and diverse community.” He also noted that he was an active member of the Texas State Nursing Coalition and member of the of Texas Society of Allied Health Professions. He then got on to the main point of his remarks.

“We are very much aware of the looming crisis of the nursing shortage. According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies… the Lower Rio Grande Valley will feel the most brunt when it comes to the nursing shortage until 2032. The reason for that is 65 percent of the working nurses right now in the nation are baby boomers. In the next five to ten years they are the next ones to retire.”

According to a report by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, by 2030, fewer states will see a shortage of registered nurses than in years past. However, Texas is not one of them. states don’t include Texas, which has long been plagued by a deficit of nurses.

The Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies reports that the supply of Texas registered nurses in 2030 will be 271,667, while there will be demand for 331,638, leaving a deficit in the state of 59,970 RNs.

Valerio also noted that there is a nursing faculty shortage. He said the Texas Society of Allied Health Professions is pushing for more bachelor programs in several allied health profession fields.

“We are aware of the problem, we are doing as much as we can with initiatives and strategies. We are talking to legislators about remedying and lessening the impact of the nursing shortage,” Valerio said.

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance initiatives

One of the industry experts to speak at the TWC regional stakeholders meeting was Jessica I. Salinas, director of student affairs at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Salinas noted three initiatives DHR is involved in to provide a better trained workforce for the Valley.

Jessica I. Salinas

Salinas called collaborative initiative between DHR, STC and PSJA ID “highly innovative and unprecedented.” The initiative is a dual credit program that can lead to an associate degree in nursing. Additional instructional services by provided by registered nurses on DHR’s clinical floors, Salinas explained. She said DHR’s registered nurses add “contextual study” to the program. She said this is “critically important.”

The second initiative Salinas highlighted is a collaboration with Region 1 Service Center. She pointed out that Region 1 was awarded a $3 million Investing in Innovation grant by the U.S. Department of Education to work with three school districts – PSJA, Med High with South Texas ISD, and La Joya ISD.

“We bring the students onto the hospital and expose them early on to our clinical side to ensure they are have a successful completion to the program. The ultimate goal of this Project Heal 2 program will be to attain 60 ADN (associate degree in nursing) nursing spots with South Texas College.”

Salinas said 1,200 students from the three school districts are enrolled in the program. Of these, 360 are seniors. She said upon completion of their nursing studies, 50 of these seniors will have guaranteed nursing spots at DHR.

The third initiative Salinas referenced, briefly, was DHR’s Health Science Institute at Renaissance. This institute will be able to grant certificates, Salinas said, with the first cohort starting in the Fall.

The regional stakeholders meeting was divided into three panel discussions. An hour each was devoted to the first two panels. Forty-five minutes was devoted to the third.

The first was titled “regional industry partnerships.” It featured DHR’s Salinas, Mike Willis of the South Texas Manufacturers Association, Gilberto Salinas, of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, Loriss K. Luna, of Texas Workforce Solutions, and Sergio Contreras, of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

The second was titled “Aligning Education to meet Industry Needs.” It featured Alicia Noyola, of Harlingen CISD, Isidro Ramos, of Texas State Technical College-Harlingen, Jesus Rodriguez, of Texas Southmost College, Esperanza Zendejas, of Brownsville ISD, Gonzalo Salazar, of Los Fresnos CISD, and Carlos Margo, of South Texas College.

The third was titled “Workforce Board Leadership.” It featured Francisco Almaraz, of Workforce Solutions Lower Rio, Pat Hobbs, of Workforce Solutions Cameron, Rogelio Treviño, of Workforce Solutions South Texas, and Richard Rogers, of Workforce Solutions Middle Rio.