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USC and Lexington Medical partner to address healthcare worker shortage

By the year 2030, South Carolina is predicted to have the fourth highest nursing shortage in the United States.

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new nursing simulation center and teaching space are being built right across the street from the Lexington Medical Center to provide clinical training for University of South Carolina medical students.

However, Tod Augsburger, the CEO of Lexington Medical, says the partnership will not only benefit medical students, but will address long-term healthcare disparities across the state.

"Healthcare access has always been an issue here and that is simply due to staffing shortages, our universities train a great number of potential employees but a lot of folks move out of state, a lot of folks retire early or change career fields, so we're always looking to hire," Augsburger explained.

According to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses' report on Enrollment and Graduations, more than 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs were turned away in 2018. This is due to faculty shortage and a lack of clinical sites, classroom space, and budget. 

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Now, with the addition of a 50,000 square foot facility and a hospital partnership, USC and the hospital are hoping to graduate more than 400 nurses per year into the South Carolina medical field. 

The school is also creating a physicians residency that expects to take on 13 new doctors each year, and graduate 13 doctors every 3 years.

"So because there aren't many spots for clinical programs in the state most physicians or nursing students will move out of state for their years of clinicals and then never come back," Augsburger said. "Then, that leaves us with less than what we need." 

For people like Casey and John Williams who live in the Lexington area, they are excited about the prospect of having more medical experts right in their back yard.

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"It sounds promising because I keep hearing stories about the hospitals being short staffed, and hospitals not having enough people to help carry the weight," Casey said. "I don't know if that is effecting patient care but I think it could."

John is set to have a surgery at Lexington Medical in the near future and says the doctors have been great to work with. He looks forward to seeing how additional hands coming to local hospitals could help provide even more patient care.

"It's nice to see that they are fighting to keep the best and the brightest here in our state," Williams said.

Construction for the clinical school is set to be finished by 2024 and Lexington Medical's in-house residency program for doctors will begin in July of 2023.

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