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U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran visits Kansas Wesleyan's Nursing Education Center

Charles Rankin | Salina Journal

Though his visit was short, Sen. Jerry Moran was given much to think about after talking with students, staff and administration at Kansas Wesleyan University Friday.

President Matthew Thompson invited the U.S. Senator from Kansas to tour the school's Nursing Education Center, which opened in January 2021

After Thompson spoke about recent successes at the school, including record enrollment numbers and fundraising campaigns, he led Moran through the building where the senator heard from students and faculty about several interconnected departments at the university.

A nursing program with room to expand

Moran spoke with several nursing students, who told him about how the new education center is being used, including with simulation labs that mimic the settings of Salina Regional Health Center, a potential future employer of graduating nurses and a partner with the college for clinical practice.

Janeane Houchin, director of nursing education and chair of the division of nursing education and health sciences at the school, said the program is approved from 80 students, but only 31 are currently enrolled.

Houchin told the senator that the department is working to increase its enrollment with things like offering scholarships to make it more transfer-friendly.

The department has state-of-the-art technology in its lab settings, including two high-fidelity mannequins, which simulate the movements of real patients including breathing, blinking and talking. The students asked the senator if he wanted to feel the mannequin and showed him just how realistic its actions are.

"I think that's strong," Moran said after feeling a pulse in the "patient's" foot.

Moran was surprised at how advanced the technology at the education center was, commending the staff for having some of the latest technology in the field.

"We are being used as a learning lab for others for training on the equipment," Thompson said.

Social work and emergency management also discussed

In addition to the nursing department, students and faculty from other departments, which many, including the senator, don't often associate with being so similar to nursing, were talked about during the visit.

One of these is social work, which the university is in the process of accrediting. Professor Kelly Hopkins, the director of the social work program at KWU talked to Moran about how people in the field are first responders and just as essential as other medical professionals.

Another program discussed is emergency management, which is part of the school's department of public policy and safety.

Bernie Botson, an assistant professor in the department, told the senator that KWU is the only school in Kansas offering a four-year degree in emergency management. Botson said the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the state of criminal justice in the country have changed how the school looks at its emergency management and criminal justice programs.

"We're looking to make our program as cutting edge as possible and change with the times that are obviously going to change," Botson said.

Moran was very interested in the emergency management program, especially with changes happening in Kansas affecting things at a national level, the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center (NABC) at Kansas State University.

"There ought to be an opportunity for emergency management training and careers as a result of trying to make certain whatever emergency might arise in the circumstances that laboratory has a response in," Moran said.

He said this conversation at KWU led him to think of emergency management in Kansas in different ways than many are used to.

"You think of tornadoes, floods and hail storms," Moran said. "But this has to be a part of this conversation."

Though he was on a tight schedule Friday, he told Thompson and Botson that he was certainly interested in continuing talking at another time of the NABC and how the emergency management program at KWU could be part of the conversation around it.