South Louisiana Community College’s new registered nurse program could start in August, pending a site visit in May and approval in June from the Louisiana State Board of Nursing.

The college had planned to start the new program sometime this spring, but hiring nursing faculty who fit the educational and experience requirements set by the state proved challenging. Faculty members must hold a master’s degree in nursing, have recent clinical experience and also have experience in curriculum development.

Faculty had to be on board before the state Board of Nursing could begin the process of approving the program, said Laurie Fontenot, SLCC dean of Nursing, Allied Health and Safety.

All four new faculty members were hired by January, but the state nursing board only meets six times a year and the SLCC program could not get on the board’s agenda until April, Fontenot said in an email.

The nursing board met Wednesday and gave the college approval to proceed with its plans and scheduled a site visit to review the new program’s lab space. The findings of that visit will be reported to the board at its meeting in June. If the board approves the project, the college may open the program for registration, Fontenot said.

The program has a capacity for 40 students, and college officials have said the program could grow in the future to admit 60 students per incoming class.

The associate’s degree program prepares students for becoming a registered nurse. The program’s graduates also will have the option to continue their education through fast-track baccalaureate programs at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Northwestern State University.

The program’s goal is to fill a need for nurses in the Acadiana area. Lafayette’s major hospitals supported the program’s development, backing it with a donation of $450,000. A contribution of $50,000 from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority boosted donations to the half-million dollar mark. The money will be used to pay for faculty salaries and equipment.

For now, the program will be housed in the college’s Ardoin building on Bertrand Drive. In the future, it will move into a $17 million health and sciences building that will be constructed between the college’s Ardoin and Devalcourt street buildings. The more than 83,000-square-foot building will house the college’s other health-related career programs as well as the college’s Early College Academy, a high school on the campus that is part of a partnership with the Lafayette Parish School System.

The nursing board meets June 11 to decide whether the program can begin admitting students. The board will continue to have oversight of the program for the first year. Fontenot is required to provide the board with a three-month report on the program’s progress. Final approval is contingent upon the first graduating class’ licensing exam results and a follow-up site visit.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter @Marsha_Sills.