NEWBERRY — The partnership between Newberry College and Newberry County Memorial Hospital will be set in concrete, literally, following a historic agreement finalized this month and signed June 30.

The partnership is designed to allow for better growth, greater access and more innovation in health care in the Midlands.

The $500,000 agreement will establish a working health clinic, to adjoin the college’s up-and-coming Nursing and Health Science Center. In addition to the clinic, the agreement will provide funds to help grow the college’s nursing and orthopedic programs.

“Moving forward, the partnership between Newberry College and Newberry Hospital will not only provide opportunities for students today, but will create a legacy that will endure,” said Maurice Scherrens, Ph.D., president of Newberry College. “Exploring new endeavors is important to the growth of our students, college, hospital and the future of our community.”

“I am very excited about the partnership between Newberry College and Newberry Hospital,” said Bruce Baldwin, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “This is a way for education and healthcare to come together to provide skills and resources that will positively impact our community for years to come.”

The daytime clinic will be an urgent care center for college students, employees and members of the surrounding community. Operated by the hospital and staffed with nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the facility will also be a prime location for health care students to get hands-on experience without leaving campus.

“This partnership and this facility are a game-changer,” said Jerry Alewine, Ed.D., interim dean of nursing and health sciences at Newberry College, and a member of the hospital’s board of trustees. “Our students will not only have a new, state-of-the-art center in which to hone their skills, but a fully functioning clinic in which to do meaningful, life-changing work, right here.”

The clinic’s experiential benefit will be significant for nursing students, Alewine said, especially those in fundamentals, leadership and community nursing courses. But as with the Nursing and Health Science Center, the clinic will be an invaluable asset for students across health care programs.

“The intent is that not only nursing, but other majors on campus, may fulfill their experiential requirements at the clinic and at the hospital,” he said. “For example, students in health care management, health science, business administration, exercise science and more can acquire hands-on experience.”

The agreement comes at a critical time. Staffing shortages have constricted health care in the Palmetto State since even before the recent pandemic. This is especially pronounced in the field of nursing, in which South Carolina has one of the country’s largest gaps, according to the Bureau of Health Workforce.

“There is such a need for staff in all areas of health care for hospitals,” said Meg Davis, RN, MSN, chief nursing officer at Newberry Hospital. “This at a time when the need for nurses is increasing due to the aging baby boomers population, and higher rates of chronic health issues such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Rural areas are especially at higher risk of feeling the shortage. Creating opportunities and strategies to assist in growing the nursing population is more important than ever.”

South Carolina is positioned to experience the highest growth in nursing opportunities by 2030, according to the bureau. Experts anticipate 26,600 new jobs on top of an existing workforce of 36,900.

Newberry College is working to meet the demand for qualified professionals across the health care industry, having added four new degree programs in the last six years and expanded enrollment in nursing. The institution broke ground in February on the 11,000-square-foot state-of-the-art center, which will provide well-needed space and technology to accommodate its recent and expected growth.

Construction on the 1,200-square-foot clinic, as well as the adjoining Nursing and Health Science Center, is expected to be complete in late spring 2023 at the corner of College and Evans streets.