Nursing School Seeks To Open In Royal Palm

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council granted preliminary approval last week to a company seeking to open a nursing school at the former CVS Pharmacy location in the Royal Plaza shopping center.

Shaker Health Holdings is requesting a special exception approval to open a 7,500-square-foot vocational school at the north end of the shopping center’s eastern building. The plaza is located at the northeast corner of Royal Palm Beach and Southern boulevards.

The school would offer vocational training for nurses, home health aides and nursing assistants, operating Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. No more than 50 students will be present at any given time, and there will be a maximum of 20 employees at full enrollment.

At the June 7 council meeting, Mayor Matty Mattioli said he supports the application wholeheartedly. “I think it’s a great idea and a great location,” Mattioli said, recalling a recent documentary he’d seen predicting a shortage of nurses over the next 10 years. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the health industry, right here in our back yard.”

Vice Mayor Fred Pinto was glad the company had decided to locate in the village. “This is a facility that could have gone to other locations in Palm Beach County,” Pinto said. “Royal Palm Beach came out on top in terms of being able to meet the needs of the people who are developing the school, and there certainly is a need for trained nurses.”

Councilwoman Martha Webster said the school is a logical progression in the development of the area, which already has educational facilities nearby.

“We’re delighted to see it,” Webster said. “What’s even more important, we have continuity of the educational complex that seems to be growing there.”

Webster asked whether there is adequate parking, and Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien said the application meets the needs for a shopping center, which is the most demanding in the village of one parking space per 200 square feet. “This shopping center has abundant parking,” O’Brien said, explaining that the plaza has 120 parking spaces more than the code requires. “I don’t anticipate there being a parking problem.”

The application complies with the village parking standards and county traffic performance standards, is compatible with neighboring land uses, consistent with the village’s comprehensive plan and conforms to the village’s development standards, O’Brien said.

Staff recommended approval of the application, and the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission voted 5-0 for approval May 22.

Applicant M. Daniel Splain said he and his wife are both healthcare administrators. “Most of my adult years have been in healthcare of one kind or another,” Splain said.

He said his wife has nursing and law degrees, is dean of a nursing school in Ohio and also has an immigration law practice engaged largely in bringing healthcare professionals to the United States.

“Because of repeated nursing shortages, I recruit healthcare professionals internationally,” he said, explaining that the lack of nurse and physical therapy educators has been brought on in part by the aging of the population and increasing life expectancy in the U.S.

“Today, over 80 percent of the people who die in this country die of chronic illness rather than acute illness as they did 100 years ago,” Splain said. “There has also been the development of new venues where care is rendered. It’s not just the hospital and the doctor’s office anymore.”

Many types of care that were once reserved for the hospital are now being done in a home healthcare setting.

“There has just been a sea change in how healthcare is delivered, and the need for healthcare professionals,” Splain said, noting a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study projecting a dramatic nursing shortage by the year 2020 in the United States. “It’s no secret to anyone in this room that one of the most significant aging populations is right here in the State of Florida. There are about 18 million people living in this state now. Many of them will live to be 85 to 90 years of age. They will require a great deal of care in the last six to eight months of their lives, and we don’t want to just bring healthcare professionals from around the world. There are so many people in this country who want to be educated as nurses, but there have not been slots to educate those nurses.”

Splain said he looks forward to becoming a part of the community. “There were a lot of places we thought about to put our nursing school, and sometimes serendipity drives you where you wind up,” he said, explaining that he was watching a Palm Beach County Commission meeting a year ago and was impressed by some of the commissioners.

That led him to the office of Commissioner Jess Santamaria, for a meeting with Pinto, who works for Santamaria. “And that is how we wound up getting to know Royal Palm Beach,” Splain said, adding that he is looking to buy a house in the village. “We hope to become an integral part of this community.”

Splain explained that the school will start with a licensed practical nursing program. “There is still a great need for them in home health and in skilled nursing facilities,” he said. “We are then moving to an associate’s degree in nursing program.”

Eventually, they’re goal is to also offer a bachelor’s degree program for registered nurses (BSN), he said, explaining that most of the hospitals in the country have adopted nursing magnet programs where they must be at 80 percent BSN by 2014.

“There is room in nursing today for all of those levels because there are different levels of complexity in nursing and different levels that require different degrees of critical thinking, and ability to assess and implement in certain practice areas,” Splain said.

Pinto made a motion to approve the application, which carried unanimously.