When it comes to health care, doctors often get the headlines. They stand out for their expertise and capabilities, and rightfully so.
But most doctors will tell you the care of a patient is a team effort, that they could never do what they do without the nurses, technicians, therapists and others who, under the banner of “allied health,” are a largely unsung army in the battlefield of modern-day medicine.
To the right of this editorial today is a wonderful column by Sandhills Community College President John Dempsey explaining and honoring the roles of the many responsible for last week’s groundbreaking of the school’s new nursing school.
It will bear the name “Foundation Hall,” Dempsey writes, because it honors not just the foundation of a key benefactor — the Bradshaw Family Foundation — but also the work of the college’s own foundation. It is the latter, he says, that undergirds much of what makes our community college so strong, from its excellent faculty to its financial commitment to the students.
The name is spot-on for those reasons. But the name, intentionally or not, also honors a core of workers without whom medicine would be a much more challenging endeavor. Nurses, technicians, counselors, therapists — they are the foundation to keeping us healthy. Ongoing chronic shortages make their recruitment and education that much more important to our well-being.
It was the three new elementary schools for Aberdeen, Pinehurst and Southern Pines that captured most of the attention when Moore County voters were asked three years ago to approve a $123 million bond referendum. But $20 million of that sum was for a new nursing school at SCC.
Currently, the school has room in its Kennedy Hall for about 140 students. It frequently sees about twice as many applicants for its program as it has available slots. The school long ago stopped a waiting list.
Of the 60-70 nurses who graduate each year, the majority go on to good-paying jobs at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
“We at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital would not survive without Sandhills Community College and the nursing students that are produced here,” Karen Robeano, FirstHealth Moore Regional’s chief nursing officer, said three years ago before the bond vote.
Other graduates go into private medical practices, primary care offices or long-term care settings. There is no lack of opportunity, only candidates.
“We have built many buildings on this campus, but we’ve never built a building as important as this one,” Dempsey said during last week’s groundbreaking.
A Generational Investment
The $20 million is as sound an investment in the long-term health of our community as you can possibly make. And even if you want to quibble about debt for the project you can’t fault the terms. The county obtained a 1.29 percent interest rate. That’s essentially free money for a project that will repay the county over decades with a steady corps of new health professionals.
When completed, Foundation Hall will create a modern 75,000-square-foot facility for the nursing program as well as other health sciences programs like radiography, surgical technology, respiratory therapy and emergency medical science. The students that graduate from these programs will represent the foundation of a health system in Moore County that regularly competes as one of the best statewide in terms of quality and extent of care.
“Generations of students will walk through these doors. I can’t wait to see them,” said Lynne Phifer, chair of Sandhills’ nursing department. “They’ll walk through these doors, and then our graduates will walk into the doors of our homes sometimes, they’ll walk into the doors of our health care facilities and our universities as they continue on with their education.”
A walk begins with a first step. Last week, we took a big one.