Classrooms at a Wichita hospital aim to give WSU students real-world examples, connections

New classrooms at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis hospital will give Wichita State University students real-world examples while helping to combat a shortage of health care workers in Kansas, hospital officials say.

The new classrooms for nursing and health sciences students were unveiled Friday.

There was a 16% vacancy rate for full-time hospital-based positions across Kansas with 4,922 total vacancies in January, according to the Kansas Hospital Association’s Workforce Survey. Licensed practical nurse was the most in-demand position with a 25% vacancy rate.

“Ascension Via Christi, like most every hospital and health care entity, has a void of workers,” said Kevin Strecker, Ascension Kansas ministry market leader. “Healthcare systems now have to innovate in order to find our professionals of tomorrow, which is why we’re here today. And this affiliation with Wichita State brings us closer to developing a talent pool for the future.”

Ascension hopes this affiliation will encourage more students to choose their hospital for their required clinical experience because they will be more familiar with the employees and facilities.

“It gives you exposure to that individual,” said Laurie Labarca, the hospital president of Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa. “If you’ve had a great experience learning and people supporting you, then that helps us as an employer with the pipeline.”

Ascension is WSU’s College of Health Professions’ only affiliated teaching hospital, and one of over 500 medical providers across the country that have an agreement as a clinical rotation site. Keeping students in Wichita is a step toward keeping more health care professionals in the state, officials said.

The affiliation also gives people working in the hospital access to professional development opportunities through WSU. These include preferred tuition and fees for registered nurses pursuing a bachelor of science, priority placement in the College of Health Professions programs and the chance to become an adjunct professor.

“What will happen if we have some of our staff that are also adjunct faculty? It broadens the teaching opportunity, and they’re learning from that,” Labarca said. “It’s really a partnership between the two organizations to expand education for us.”

Remodeling former offices in St. Francis and developing the affiliation took about six months and $20,000, according to Labarca. Before this project was completed, classes were conducted at WSU and in Manhattan, due to their university partnership with Kansas State.

Classes will still be held on these campuses, but some will be moved to the new Ascension classrooms at the beginning of the 2023 fall semester.

Kevin Strecker, Laurie Labarca, Dr. Shirley Lefever and Dr. Greg Hand finalize the affiliation between Ascension Via Christi and WSU.
Kevin Strecker, Laurie Labarca, Dr. Shirley Lefever and Dr. Greg Hand finalize the affiliation between Ascension Via Christi and WSU.