Nursing school project moving along

Construction is moving along on the expansion of Southwestern Michigan College’s nursing program. When completed in January, the school will be able to double the number of students admitted into the nursing program.

DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Southwestern Michigan College’s $9.6-million nursing project remains on track for Nov. 1 completion, according to college officials.

Furniture and equipment are expected to be moved in during December to open to students in January 2019 for spring semester.

The Board of Trustees last August awarded a $7 million contract to Rockford Construction Co. of Grand Rapids for its first SMC project.

“I am very excited SMC has chosen to place a high priority on supporting our health care training programs,” said Trustee Dr. Heidi Grabemeyer-Layman, an OB/GYN with South Shore Women’s Health Care, St. Joseph. “Simulation training in the new labs will help our students to be better equipped to provide safe and effective care. The construction of the new Nursing and Health Education building will help to ensure that our students continue to receive a high-quality education, preparing them to become integral parts of our local health care teams.”

SMC’s project manager, Building and Grounds Department head John Eberhart, attends weekly progress meetings with Rockford’s management team and architect Abonmarche Consultants, Inc. of Bentor Harbor. Eberhart, a licensed electrician, said preliminary work “actually started a year in advance” with rerouting the high-voltage hub.

“Right now there are a couple of plumbers, a couple of sheet metal guys, three electricians, Rockford has a couple of guys doing framing, there’s some roofers and steelworkers who are here on and off and masons working on the brick. We’ve probably got 20 people coming and going most of the time,” Eberhart said.

Safety is stressed throughout. Anyone entering the construction site for more than a visit must complete Rockford’s safety orientation. “If they see the Rockford sticker (on hard hats), they know you’ve been trained,” Eberhart said. Each weekly “toolbox talk” contains a reminder about a different topic, including driving carefully on campus and managing interaction with students and staff. Work generally goes from 7 a.m.-5 p.m.

“Rockford is a great company, very forward-thinking,” Eberhart said.

The project is doubling the size of SMC’s existing 1970 School of Nursing and Health Services to 29,000 square feet and equipping it with four state-of-the-art simulation labs and a 16-bed skills lab. It began after the Sept. 6 construction celebration at the Charles O. Zollar Building with then-Michigan Budget Director Al Pscholka.

Pscholka, as House Appropriations Committee chair, shepherded the project through the Legislature with help from state Sen. John Proos and state Reps. Dave Pagel and Aaron Miller to secure $4 million from the State.

“It’s an investment, not only in our region,” Pscholka said, “but in a profession where we are seeing growth. There will be 500,000 nurses retiring between now and 2022, which means we need to fill 1.1 million openings in the next five years just to stay even.”

The added instructional space will allow SMC to admit 50-percent more students – 120 annually instead of 80.

Abonmarche’s previous architectural projects for SMC include Alumni Plaza, Foster W. Daugherty and William P.D. O’Leary building updates and new Dowagiac campus entryways.

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