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PENNSYLVANIA - Gov. Tom Wolf announced that Geisinger College of Health Sciences was awarded a $2.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant for a School of Nursing renovation project. The funds will be used to renovate and repurpose a vacated building in downtown Lewistown into a fully functional, state-of-the-art facility to house the school. 
 
The new expanded facility will allow the school to increase the number of nursing graduates to serve both Mifflin and Juniata Counties, as well as the Commonwealth, while providing additional space for the growth of the School of Nursing in the future. 

“We are grateful to Gov. Wolf and State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff for their support of nurse education in our region. The need for a local nurse workforce is significant and these funds will be used to create the high-tech learning environment we need to deliver the innovative curriculum our School of Nursing has long been recognized for,” said Julie Byerley, MD, MPH, chief academic officer of Geisinger and president of Geisinger College of Health Sciences.

As the impacts of the pandemic ripple through the economy, rural hospitals are closing across the United States and Pennsylvania. Rural areas are more negatively affected by the health professional shortages because they care for mostly older, poorer, and sicker populations, often with patients reporting multiple chronic disease, which had increased in complexity since the pandemic. Financially, margins are tighter for rural healthcare providers, especially hospitals. 

“Access to a skilled workforce is critical and challenging for most rural systems who must compete with higher wages, transportation issues and more urban communities which appeal to younger workers,” said Janet Tomcavage, Geisinger executive vice president and chief nursing executive. “Recruitment is challenging and so a high-quality hospital-sponsored School of Nursing mitigates some of these difficulties by focusing on local talent. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the nursing shortage crisis as experienced nurses are leaving hospitals and the bedside in record numbers. More than 30 percent of RNs are expected to retire in the next 10 years. Simultaneously, the acuity of patients seeking and needing more intense care has significantly increased.”

In its application, Geisinger College cited the numerous benefits of expanded nurse education the funds will support, saying it: 

Increases Pennsylvania’s nursing workforce by doubling of the current class size 
Contributes to the economic revitalization of downtown Lewistown 
Creates direct and indirect jobs, including faculty, contractors, and local restaurants/businesses 
Increases access to health care by boosting the number of available nurses both in the region and Pennsylvania
Provides necessary space for the future growth of the School of Nursing

“As the nursing shortage continues to plague community hospitals throughout Pennsylvania, Geisinger has committed to investing in providing opportunity and advancement for local learners with its support of a new College of Nursing campus in downtown Lewistown,” said Kirk Thomas, chief administrative officer, Geisinger Western Region. “The revitalization of an abandoned store will allow us to consolidate current classrooms into one building and provide additional space for future growth. This new campus anchored in Lewistown is an important hub of learning for Geisinger and the region.” 

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) Administration is a Commonwealth reimbursement grant program administered by the Pennsylvania Office of Budget. It provides financial assistance for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, and historical improvement projects.
 

About Geisinger College of Health Sciences
Geisinger College of Health Sciences is the research and education arm of the Geisinger family. The college houses Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Geisinger School of Nursing and Geisinger School of Graduate Education. The college is committed to non-discrimination in all employment and educational opportunities.

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For GCSOM media inquiries

Elizabeth Zygmunt
Director of Media and Public Relations
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Office: 570-504-9687
On call: 570-687-9703
ezygmunt@som.geisinger.edu