It was easy to miss, but on almost every one of the five possibilities for Pittsburg State’s master plan roughly two weeks ago, there was an expansion listed for the nursing building, McPherson Hall.

It was easy to miss, but on almost every one of the five possibilities for Pittsburg State’s master plan roughly two weeks ago, there was an expansion listed for the nursing building, McPherson Hall.

The nursing department said that expansion is badly needed.

“We have outgrown our building,” said Cheryl Giefer, PSU nursing acting chairperson. “Nursing is a popular major. Our spring enrollment for 2011 has 501 nursing majors enrolled. That’s more than our fall enrollment of 495. We’re up in the spring in every one of our programs.”

In fact, the nursing needs are so dire that it has begun to affect future thinking, as well as how the school is run day to day.

Giefer said that with the undergraduate programs, the nursing school has hit its limit in terms of classroom space, number of faculty and available clinical sites.

“There are days when the classroms are all full from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then we have the graduate courses in the evenings. Mondays and Wednesdays, we see a lot of use in the classroom,” Giefer said. “There are times during the week that our computer testing lab cannot accommodate our needs. We have computerized testing that has to be done in shifts.”

Another example of the continued growth of the nursing program can be seen just in the number of graduate nursing students at the school in just the last few years.

Four years ago, there were 38 to 40 students in the masters program, Giefer said. Even in 2008, the school graduated just eight family nurse practitioner students. By 2009, the number had risen to 12, and there were 26 family nurse practitioner graduate students in 2010. The masters program as a whole is now close to 75 students.

With larger classrooms, there may be all sorts of changes that could be made in the nursing department. Nursing officials are trying not to get their hopes up just yet.

“It’s not just the size of the building. It’s the limitations related to the size of the faculty. It’s clinical preceptors available in the community. It’s the amoun of clinic time and space in the community,” Giefer said. “It would be very nice to have a new building. We’re happy to be included in the long-range vision of the university. We’re very excited about nursing expansion ideas and we hope they could be included in the master plan.”

Although the nursing department may think it needs an expanded building, that is no guarantee that the nursing expansion would be included on the master plan.

Paul Stewart, PSU director of facilities planning, said that the university is using enrollment counts, class sizes, usage, interviews with deans, registrar information and other data to help determine what may need work in the next 10 years.

Stewart noted that it’s not certain that the nursing school may get a building expansion, but it’s certainly a “strong candidate” for potential expansion work in the next 10 years.

“I think it’s correct to assume that there are some strong indications that’s what the consultants are seeing,” Stewart said. “Until we see the final master plan, we can’t know for sure. The next step will be to narrow down our plans and look at that to make sure it’s what we need.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.