HCA Healthcare-owned Galen College of Nursing debuts Asheville campus

Health care students flank a practice station at Galen College of Nursing's new campus in Asheville.

Health care students flank a practice station at Galen College of Nursing’s new campus in Asheville.

ASHEVILLE – After first announcing the move in the spring of 2022, Galen College of Nursing has opened an Asheville location and is positioning itself as a future source of health care worker talent in Western North Carolina.

Officials cut the ribbon on the 16,900-square-foot campus at 30 Town Square Blvd. in Biltmore Park Dec. 15. Asheville’s is now part of a network of campuses in seven other states, all with a total of about 9,000 students.

HCA Healthcare — which bought Mission Health in 2019 — is an owner of Galen College of Nursing after it bought a majority stake in the educational outfit in 2020.

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The local turnaround from idea to reality was quick, with HCA announcing the Asheville campus in June and cutting the ceremonial ribbon almost exactly six months later.

Galen’s presence is expressly meant to bolster the health care workforce in WNC by initially offering three degrees:

  • A three-year bachelor of science in nursing.

  • A two-year associate degree in nursing.

  • A licensed practical nurse to associate degree in nursing bridge option.

Galen College of Nursing Chief Executive Officer Mark Vogt speaks before the ribbon cutting at the institution's new Asheville campus, which opened Dec.  15.

Galen College of Nursing Chief Executive Officer Mark Vogt speaks before the ribbon cutting at the institution’s new Asheville campus, which opened Dec. 15.

Current Mission Health employees who enroll could even get a tuition discount by way of tax reimbursement.

“This addition to nursing education in the Asheville area is designed to complement other area colleges and universities as we all work together to provide healthcare workforce education,” Mission Health spokesperson Nancy Lindell said in a news release. “This new college campus will continue our mission to expand access to quality nursing education and to help address the nation’s increasing nursing workforce needs.”

Lindell said both full- and part-time employees may be eligible for up to $5,250 per calendar year in tax-free reimbursement for applicable higher education courses, including tuition, books and course-related fees at Galen and other schools.

According to the 2022 State of Our Workforce Survey: Western NC created by a partnership of the Durham-based RTI International data firm and Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, health care is the workforce that will need the most employees in the coming years.

Employers who participated in the survey said the top two types of workers needed would be health aids and assistants and nurses.

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Mission Health is trying to contribute to those needs through its affiliation with Galen College and also through its recent funding of faculty at local colleges and universities including Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Blue Ridge Community College and Western Carolina University.

“We are excited about the local opportunities for nursing education that this new Galen campus will bring to our community,” said Mission Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Melanie Wetmore. “Along with our strong partnerships with area colleges, we hope the opening of this new campus will encourage the next generation of caregivers.”

As Mission seeks to expand educational options for current and future health care workers in the mountains, they continue to see pushback from unionized nurses echoing chronic need for more staff while condemning HCA for being profit-oriented.

On several mornings in 2022 including Dec. 13, Mission Hospital nurses with National Nurses United stood outside the hospital’s 509 Biltmore Ave. campus demanding better conditions during ongoing staffing shortages.

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Kate McGee, an RN at Copestone Psychiatric Unit, speaks as Mission nurses participate in a country-wide event hosted by their union to demand that hospital employers put patients first above profit motives January 27, 2021 in Asheville.

Kate McGee, an RN at Copestone Psychiatric Unit, speaks as Mission nurses participate in a country-wide event hosted by their union to demand that hospital employers put patients first above profit motives January 27, 2021 in Asheville.

“Nurses are demanding that Mission Hospital address chronic and widespread short staffing,” said Hannah Drummond, an RN who works in Mission’s emergency department. “Short staffing is causing our patients to sit in hallway beds for days, causing significant delays in care and putting our patients at risk. HCA profits continue to skyrocket while our patients do not get the care they deserve.

Andrew Jones is an investigative reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or [email protected] Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Asheville Galen College of Nursing, owned by HCA Healthcare, now open