Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences building mug

(Yakima Herald-Republic file)

The Washington State University College of Nursing in Yakima is set to relocate to the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences campus ahead of fall quarter.

The nursing program, which has roughly 100 students at a given time, will move to PNWU’s Watson Hall beginning in August, the colleges announced in a statement Wednesday.

The Yakima nursing program dates to the 1970s and has been on the Yakima Valley College campus since 1996. The move will allow WSU’s nursing program to join its College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on the PNWU campus, where it has been located since 2015.

Arrangements for the relocation have been underway with PNWU for roughly a year, said Mel Haberman, interim dean of the WSU College of Nursing.

“(Interprofessional education) is really central to our decision to move — having medical students, pharmacy students and nursing students working together, learning how to be better clinicians,” he said.

Past collaborations include weekly clinic hours hosted at the Union Gospel Mission in Yakima, in which PNWU osteopathic medical students and WSU nursing and pharmaceutical students work together to see clients. The effort has been ongoing for nearly three years.

“It’s that kind of thing that we’re looking at expanding — those kinds of programs that bring (together) students from the different disciplines,” said Addy Hatch, communications director for the WSU College of Nursing.

The move also provides more space to the nursing program, which graduates about 23 undergraduates a semester in addition to hosting a handful of graduate students, Haberman said. Watson Hall is adjacent to the PWNU building where high-tech mannequins can be used for training.

“Simulation has been an increasingly important aspect of nursing education because it teaches students clinical skills, as well as critical thinking, leadership and teamwork,” said Hatch, adding that the nursing program received grant funding in 2018 to purchase one of these mannequins that breathes, blinks and has a heartbeat.

PNWU’s provost and chief academic officer Ed Bilskyf lauded the collaborative efforts that could be expanded.

“The close proximity of the programs and investment in state-of-the-art training facilities allows us to build in more educational programming and clinically relevant, hands-on training activities,” he said in a statement.

Yakima Valley medical programs have made similar efforts to build learning opportunities across programs to bolster rural health care. Partnerships like the Yakima Valley Interprofessional Practice and Education Collaborative launched in 2015 aim to bring together students from WSU, PNWU, Heritage University and Central Washington University, for example.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students have organized collaborations on their own. A group organized by PNWU students to help community members affected by the virus has drawn the help of students from other programs, including the WSU College of Nursing.

Health services are a growing sector in Yakima County. There were over 16,400 health service jobs in Yakima County in 2018 based on employer payroll records — up nearly 10% from 2016, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka