Beebe Healthcare Services is expanding the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing, building a $10 million facility where as many as 60 students will train to become much-needed registered nurses.
The school offers the only three-year nursing diploma in Delaware and it is the only program in the state located at a hospital.
Officials and members of the Rollins family took part in a Dec. 14 groundbreaking ceremony for the school.
In June 2011, the Beebe Medical Center Board of Directors agreed to rename the school in honor of Margaret H. Rollins, wife of Randall Rollins.
Through their Ma-Ran Foundation, the couple gave a gift of $3 million toward the school, making it possible to speed up construction and save $1 million in construction costs. The facility is scheduled for completion in 2015.
The new school will double enrollment capacity from 30 to 60 students.
“The superior clinical experiences gained by our students prepares them to move seamlessly into the healthcare setting,” said Jeffrey Fried, Beebe Healthcare president and CEO.
He said Rollins graduates typically score higher on the nurse licensure exam than any other Delaware schools.
The school will feature two one-bed and two six-bed skills laboratories equipped like modern hospital rooms.
The one-bed skills labs will include simulated patients, dummies of humans with real physiological responses that allow students to practice clinical scenarios in a laboratory setting and gain confidence in their skills.
“We will be educating more nurses not only for Beebe Healthcare but for all of Sussex County and the entire state of Delaware,” Fried said. “Many of these nurses will go on to become certified as nurse practitioners and will help to alleviate the significant shortage of primary-care physicians in our community.”
Fried thanked Delaware’s congressional delegation for $1.5 million in federal funds for the project.
“I want to thank the Rollins family for your wonderful gift. It’s the largest we’ve ever received in the history of Beebe Medical Center. We wouldn’t be here today without your generosity and your thinking of us. We really do appreciate that,” Fried said.
Fried said school graduates are at the top of the national exam pass rate because they have the benefit of being across the street from the hospital, where they learn clinical skills.
Sen. Tom Carper told of walking through Lewes during his first campaign in Delaware in 1976, when he ran for office as state treasurer.
“I remember going by this hospital and I said, ‘I wonder how you pronounce that word – B-B?’” he said to laughter.
Armed with campaign literature and wearing a campaign button reading ‘Hi, I’m Tom Carper, Democrat for State Treasurer,’ he decided to go inside and introduce himself.
“I shook hands with everybody. I went to the first floor, second-floor, down the halls, made customer calls and people were so warm and welcoming.
“I remember meeting this attractive young woman, and she worked here and was on the staff, and I said, ‘What is your name?’ She said, ‘My name is Margaret, people call me Peggy,’ he said turning to look at Margaret Rollins.
“That wasn’t me,” Rollins said softly, making people laugh heartily.
Carper said he had never heard the word earmark until that day when he was told the school would like to expand but needed money.
“This lady said, and I’ll never forget, ‘We would do it if we could just get an earmark or two.’ I said, ‘What is that?’ She said, ‘It’s something that a congressional delegation gets from federal funds to direct them to a particular cause.’ ... That was the first time I ever heard of them. Turns out as a congressman and later as a senator, I got to know them pretty well,” he said.
Carper said working with then Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Mike Castle, they did get federal money for the school.
Carper said there are 40 million people in the country who don’t have health insurance but are about get it through the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
“At the center of it all are nurses. There is going to be a growing demand for primary healthcare and the lion’s share of that is going to be provided by nurses. We need a bunch of them, and we need them to be well trained,” he said.
Demolition of the school’s two old buildings has started and is scheduled to continue into early January. Construction of the new building is slated to follow immediately.