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New nursing school in the mix

Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island have announced plans for a new $60 million shared nursing school facility in the Jewelry District downtown, near the future site of Brown's Medical Education Building. The two nursing schools would remain separate, but would share the same building, said Dayle Joseth, dean of the college of nursing at URI.

RIC and URI had planned to build separate nursing schools on their campuses before the Rhode Island Office of Higher Education proposed that the institutions combine their individual designs "to save $20 million of taxpayer money," said Ray Di Pasquale, higher education commissioner and the president of the Community College of Rhode Island. Both institutions are in "dire need of upgraded facilities," and the shared building would allow 50 additional students to attend each of the two nursing programs, he added.

The 120,000-square-foot edifice would be much larger than the buildings both of the universities had initially envisioned, Joseth said. "It's three times the size of what we would've had on this campus," she added. 

"We could share classroom space, have our classes on different days at different times," she said, but "I don't think we're going to share a curriculum. Both schools have a very different mission statement," she said, noting that URI's mission statement places weight on research and practice.

A nursing school in the Jewelry District would also place RIC and URI students in close contact with local hospitals and the Brown medical community. Such proximity would add a cooperative dimension to the students' education that has so far been lacking, said Joseth. Universities "tend to work in silos of our own discipline, but there are really a lot of things we can begin to work together on,"  she added.

"We are quite excited to be part of the knowledge district," Joseth said, highlighting the proximity to hospitals, other educational facilities and the downtown area. Though most of the faculty at the two institutions are eager to participate in the joint endeavor, "there are some people that aren't as enthusiastic about it," Joseth said.

The venture received a thumbs-up from Mayor David Cicilline '83 and widespread support from "important" health care providers such as Care New England and Lifespan, said Di Pasquale.

The new facility would be a concrete response to the shortage of nurses in the state, Joseth said. Every prediction claims that there will be a dire need for more nurses in the future, she added, "when we look at 2020 it's frightening, because nurses are aging fast."
Brown's Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Edward Wing shared Joseth's enthusiasm for the prospect of collaboration. "Nursing and medical education are coming closer and closer together," he said, stating that in a hospital setting "the group takes better care of the patient than one person can." 

In this regard, Brown's Med School will "be able to have joint courses and sessions with the nurses" in order to foster the "team concept," he added. Wing also said that the hospitals in the area would benefit greatly from a deep relationship with the nursing and pharmaceutical research that URI provides.

Collaboration between the various institutions would allow them to apply for additional grants, Di Pasquale said. "This would be a great thing for public universities and the nursing programs," he added, and "we're hopeful that Brown would see it in that way as well."

The Jewelry District Association, established in 1993, claims the nursing school would increase the hustle and bustle of the emerging neighborhood. "I think the school would be very helpful in generating people on the street and night-time activities as well," said Arthur

Salisbury, vice president of the association. "It will bring in a bunch of people from outside to get to know the district and eat at its restaurants," he added.

The association has not had any contact with either of the universities so far, and only became aware of the nursing school project "when it was in the paper two or three weeks ago," Salisbury said. Though the universities' plans will likely "complement" the association's efforts breathe new life into the Jewelry District, Salisbury also said "one of the major issues we'd have is about the location and design of the building."

Before construction can get the go-ahead, the plan must pass through both the State House of Representatives and the Senate, Di Pasquale said. If approved, the proposal would then move to a public vote on Nov. 10, he said.

Either way, "the building probably wouldn't break ground until 2012, which still allows for a lot of planning between the two institutions," Di Pasquale said.




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