New UNK Health Education Complex Will Keep Medical Professionals in Central Nebraska

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Kearney, NE In order for medical professionals to receive the training they need in Nebraska they had to leave rural communities and head to Omaha. But the new Health Science Education Complex at the University of Nebraska at Kearney will give them another option.

UNK, UNMC, and Good Samaritan officials broke ground Friday for the $19,000,000 project that will hopefully keep medical professionals in the area.

"We're going to be able to train people in Central Nebraska and they will be able to, I believe, stay here," said Doug Kristensen, the Chancellor of UNK. "For so many people who want these professional degrees or their advanced nursing degrees they would have to go to Omaha to receive that degree. Well that's where they get their first house, they meet their significant other, they have their children, and they become place bound."

Over 2 years of planning and the collaboration of UNK and UNMC has resulted in the new 50,000 sq. ft. facility.

UNK officials see several benefits to this new addition.

Kristensen said, "It's gratifying, but you know that's our mission. The tax payers of this state fund our institutions to do what the state needs to do and this is one of them, this is a way for us to address the needs of rural Nebraska and that's what a university campus ought to be doing. And so, yes we do a lot of other things, but this really is engaging and meeting the needs of the citizens of Nebraska."

The hope is to train students on rural healthcare, which is easiest in the central area.

"Our focus is to create a generation of healthcare professionals who understand that commitment and are willing to live up to it and to work in these communities," said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, the Chancellor of UNMC.

Another aspect of this new complex is it's expected to help solve the state wide nursing shortage, especially in rural Central Nebraska.

"This building will be the home for an expanded, extended nursing program and so it's not only going to provide degree nursing, but advanced degree nursing that's so crucial if we're going to draw specialists," said Kristensen.

Officials are also hoping the new facility will be an example to the country that education complexes like this one need to be available in more places than just major cities.

Dr. Gold said, "Our population is aging and the requirements are just continuing to grow. As a result of that there are lots of young men and young women who are interested in careers in health care and there are just not enough educational sites in the United States."

Construction will be completed in June of 2015. The first class from the complex will graduate in 2017.