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Bradley University receives $850K in federal funds to bolster nursing education programs, outreach

Bradley University's facilities for training the next generation of nurses are getting beefed up.

A total of $850,000 in fiscal year 2022 federal appropriations will be used to install a new nursing simulation lab on campus, and will seed a new workforce development plan for Peoria Public Schools students at Bradley.

Dr. Jessica Clark is the university's dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences.

"The federal funds allocated to this project will be used to support the operation, purchase, and related infrastructure to expanding the Department of Nursing's current simulation space," Clark said. "This project is going to focus on the addition of adding an acute care high fidelity multi-mannequin simulation center."

Clark said the simulation allows students to hone their complex nursing skills in a controlled environment.

Fifty to 75 middle and high school students enrolled in Peoria Public Schools also willparticipate each year in what Clark is calling a "targeted early learning program" aimed at exposing youth to career possibilities in nursing.

"We want them to choose Bradley as their school of choice. We want them to stay here in Peoria. And we want them to work in our robust regional medical community," she said.

Peoria Public Schools superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said she's excited about the opportunities the new workforce program will offer, noting she wishes the limit was 1,000 students instead of just 75 a year.

"The simulation lab provides opportunities for students to get another type of experience, to learn and develop competencies in the nursing field. So we're excited about this opportunity. And we look forward to the partnership," Kherat said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who worked with Democratic colleague Sen. Tammy Duckworth to secure the funding, said down payments on education like this one are needed for the future of American health care.

"Even before the strain of the pandemic on our health care workforce, we faced a nursing crisis. Illinois was not spared," Durbin said. "Statewide, more than 50% of our nurses are over the age of 55. And nearly 30% plan to retire within the next five years."

Durbin thinks he new partnership between Bradley University and Peoria Public Schools will pay off.

"It really can create a positive outcome. It'll build a local pipeline of health care workers to help promote diversity that improves patient care, and strengthens our local economy," he said.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.