West Liberty University’s nursing program receives nearly $1 million grant

Several simulation mannequins used by WLU nursing students.

West Liberty University has been awarded $924,619 through West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s Nursing Workforce Expansion Program. The program is designed to address the shortage of nursing staff in the state of West Virginia by helping colleges and universities to attract, train and retain nurses.

The WLU Health Science department is planning to use the award to boost enrollment in the nursing program. The award is expected to support around 20 new nursing students at West Liberty in the fall semester, particularly those applying for the second-degree program (BA-BS to BSN. “A big chunk of the money is going towards awards,” said Dr. Rose Kutlenios, the program director of nursing at West Liberty. “We’re putting together a process… especially for the second-degree students because they do not qualify for many of the other financial aid that regular students do.” The awards for new students are in the form of one-year grants and are up to $25,000 in size.

The second-degree program typically graduates between five and 11 students at a time. The program is designed for students who are re-entering college after graduating and seeking a career change into nursing. “It’s for people who have a college degree and so maybe they went to school and majored in just about anything, but often times it’s in the sciences and they weren’t sure what they wanted to do and they get out there and they think yeah, I’d really like to be a nurse, so it’s a career change,” said Kutlenios.

Another significant part of the award will go towards improving the technology available to WLU’s nursing students. The department is planning to purchase a virtual reality set to allow students to gain experience using VR immersion software. “The students will be able to engage in clinical scenarios that the faculty member is able to program and assess,” said Dr. Karen Kettler, interim dean of the College of Sciences. “The idea is that this can be used to supplement their clinical experience.”

Alongside the adoption of virtual reality software, the program is also looking to invest some of the funds into purchasing three new, up-to-date simulation mannequins for students to practice their clinical skills on. The new mannequins would include a geriatric mannequin and darker-skin toned mannequins to enhance diversity training.

The improvement of the technology available to nursing students should help improve student confidence in clinical judgment as they enter into their clinical rotations in local hospitals. “The idea is that this will be used to supplement their clinical experience… Back here in our laboratory we’re able to use our simulation mannequins as well as VR immersion software so the student gets immersed in the scenario,” said Kettler.

Increased technological access will allow faculty members to ensure that students are exposed to a wide variety of cases that are not guaranteed to come up during clinical hours. “You can plan it better with what you want the students to get so that they have had someone with this disease, someone with this complication, rather than when you’re in the hospital and it’s whoever happens to be there with whatever they have,” said Kutlenios.

The Nursing Program Expansion Program awards are administered by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System. West Liberty was one of 26 projects to be funded by the program across the state. “We knew that this would be a great opportunity to grow our program, and so we decided it was kind-of a no-brainer to apply for it because we knew how much it would benefit the students and our region,” said Kettler.

For more information regarding the traditional nursing program at West Liberty, click here. For more information about the BA-BS to BSN program, click here.