Things are bigger in Texas, including the hospitals.
The Lone Star State's largest hospital is the new 2.1-million-square-foot Parkland Memorial, located in Dallas. The 17-story, $1.3-billion facility took five years to complete and is located across the street from the old hospital, which was built in the 1950s. The new Parkland opened its doors to the public in August 2015 and is expected to see more than 1 million patient visits a year.
"It’s absolutely beautiful," West Coast University-Dallas alum JD Buchert said in a recent phone interview. "And they have a whole section there that is just surgical. It’s incredible.”
Three Keys to Success
We asked WCU grad JD Buchert if he had any fond memories from his time at school. Instead, he told us about three people at WCU-Dallas who were influential to him.
• Jiji Varughese, RN, MSN
"She really helped guide us through what being prepared for the NCLEX was about."
• Sherri Smith-Keys, MSN, RN
"A no-holds barred educator. She cared for the students tremendously but she didn’t take excuses and I really appreciated that from her."
• Brenda Uhrig, MSN, RN, CEN, CHSE
"She was the first person that took me to a clinical experience. Basically, she grabbed all our hands and made sure that we didn’t freak out."
Besides being the newest, biggest and most digital hospital in the state, Parkland is also home to a Texas-sized nursing residency: the nine-month operating room nurse specialty program.
"When we finish it, we will be certified in 16 different areas of surgery and we will be considered an OR care nurse," Buchert said. "We get certified in thoracics, in cardio, and so forth, and we will be able to scrub for all of those operations."
Being in the toughest nursing residency program at one of the world's largest teaching hospitals might be intimidating for some people, but not for Buchert.
"I’ve really been building myself up for this experience, so I'm just grateful that I was picked," he said. "There were 236 people that applied for it and they accepted 10 people.”
Buchert graduated in November 2015 with a bachelors of science in nursing after a long gap in his academic history.
"When I was younger, I was in medical school and my wife passed away so I had to drop out to raise my son, who was 9 months old," he said. "When my son graduated with his master’s degree, he convinced me to go back to school and nursing was the route I took."
Buchert said he chose WCU due to its accelerated BSN program. Returning to school 25 years later, the last thing the grandfather of four wanted was to have long breaks between semesters.
• 862 beds; 2.1 million square feet
• Parking for 6,000 vehicles
• 154 emergency department treatment rooms
• 27 surgical suites
• Trauma elevator can go from the helipad to ER in 32 seconds
• Average operating room size – 620 square feet
• 11 ambulance parking spaces
• 83 adult ICU rooms
• 48 labor and delivery rooms
• 96 neonatal ICU rooms
• 9 obstetrics specialty surgical suites
• 6 CT scan, 4 MRI, 14 X-ray, 29 ultrasound (all portable), 2 stress echocardiogram suites
• 7 endoscopy suites
• Enough electrical wire to stretch from Dallas to New York
• Roofing area equivalent to 200 homes
• 6,000 plumbing fixtures, 7,000 doors and 45 elevators
"I wanted to go all the way through without interruption. Also, being a little bit older or even twice the age of the other students, I didn’t want to spend 12 years in school getting my medical degree," he said. "At first, I can tell you, it was a little difficult to retrain my brain to learn, but it’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made."
And with the quarter-century layoff, Buchert more than made up for lost time during his 26 months at WCU-Dallas. Besides being on the honor roll and a program ambassador, Buchert was elected president of the National Student Nursing Association, selected for the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau and traveled to Panama with the Global Public Health program.
Buchert somehow also found time to help mentor students, all while working part-time as an assoicate instructor of anatomy and physiology at a local junior college.
"I think as I got older I appreciated the educational system more than when I was younger. When I was younger, I just wanted to finish and get it over with. As an older student I wanted more to absorb and take the knowledge to heart," he said.
In January 2016, Buchert was invited to attend a WCU-Dallas pinning ceremony by his friend and fellow WCU nursing student Zulia Hunt. Hunt, who was born in Kazakhstan and a native Russian speaker, asked Buchert to pin her after working so hard to help her graduate.
Buchert said both his pinning in November 2015 and Hunt's were special events for him, but for different reasons.
"When I went to my pinning it was incredible because my mother was there. My grandparents had 54 grandchildren. I’m the first grandchild that actually graduated so that was kind of a big moment for our family," he said. "In January, I would say I felt more like a proud parent seeing all those young nurses that were getting ready to come into the field."