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Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff
Mar 4, 2020
3 min read
Frontier Nursing University will soon welcome students to Versailles campus, Building renovations ne
Frontier Nursing University (FNU) students will soon be coming to their new 36-acre Versailles campus for weeklong clinical simulations and orientations, according to FNU President Dr. Susan Stone. She said the move will begin in August, with “our first student event” on the Lexington Road campus (formerly occupied by the Kentucky United Methodist Home for Children & Youth) Oct. 5.
An open house is scheduled Sept. 2.
“The renovation of the campus is coming along well,” Stone said during an interview with the Sun Feb. 28. She said work is nearly complete on a new dining hall and renovations of three dormitories are also just about finished.
Most of Frontier Nursing University’s administrative staff (about 65 employees) is already working on the Versailles campus in temporary office spaces, Chief Operations Officer Shelley Aldridge said. Another 20 employees will soon join them. They will provide housekeeping and dining services for students.
The 13 buildings on its Versailles campus will total nearly 88,000 square-feet – about triple the space of its current facilities in Hyden, Ky., according to Aldridge and Stone.
While most of the buildings were renovations – not rebuilds, Stone said a “Frontier-ization” of the campus meant adding stone and brown siding exteriors to buildings that were all-brick prior to the renovations. The buildings were redesigned so students, faculty and others will be reminded of Frontier Nursing University’s origins in Hyden when they walk on the Versailles campus, she explained.
Stone cited delays in construction, “one after another,” for pushing the date when students would start attending orientations and clinical simulations on the Versailles campus back by more than a year.
Originally, FNU planned to renovate and expand an existing dining hall, but instead needed to build a new dining hall to “suit our needs,” Stone explained. She said a renovation of the administrative office building has also been problematic.
“So it’s just been those kinds of construction delays, but nothing overwhelming that we couldn’t deal with. It’s just everything takes time,” Stone said.
“We’re approaching the end (of the project) now so we don’t expect any more big surprises,” she added.
Classrooms, exam rooms and a simulation lab are among the educational facilities on the Versailles campus, which will also have a 110-seat auditorium for hosting events, Stone said.
While Frontier Nursing University is not a residential program, different groups of its distance-learning students will spend a total of 32 to 35 weeks a year for orientations and week-long clinical simulations on the Versailles campus, said Aldridge.
And the number of weeks they spend on campus will likely climb higher with the growing need for psych-mental health nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, according to Stone. “Right now,” she explained, “we turn away 50 percent of qualified applicants because we don’t have space for them” on our Hyden campus. The three renovated dormitories on FNU’s Versailles campus will house 99 students and visiting faculty from across the United States will have on-campus housing available to them as well, Aldridge and Stone said.
Frontier Nursing University’s enrollment has climbed from 200 students in 2004 to 2,300 currently, according to Stone, but she said additional growth will depend on having more clinical sites (where students receive six to nine months of clinical training) and hiring additional faculty.
Including a purchase price of $5.54 million for the property, the Versailles campus renovation project will cost $32 million, according to Stone. She said efforts are ongoing to maintain a presence in Hyden, including the historic home of founder Mary Breckinridge.
“The good news is we will continue to graduate students from that part of the state because our students come from everywhere,” said Stone. She noted FNU has graduated 150 students from southeastern Kentucky in the last 12 years.
Breckinridge established Frontier Nursing Service (what is now Frontier Nursing University) as part of a demonstration project to provide care to women and families with a focus on those in rural and underserved areas, according to FNU. About 35 percent of FNU’s students live in rural areas and they come from all 50 states, according to Stone, the only Kentuckian and one of only two nurses inducted into the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Class of 2018.
Stone was lauded by NAM as “a leader in the development of strategies to increase the quality and capacity of the midwifery and the advanced practice nursing workforce with the specific goal of improving health care for families,” a news release announcing her induction stated.