Southwestern Michigan College to expand its nursing and health education facility

Southwestern Michigan College is preparing to break ground this spring on a $9.6 million expansion of its Nursing and Health Education Building.

DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Southwestern Michigan College is preparing to break ground in May on a $9.6 million expansion of its Nursing and Health Education Building aiming to help the community college expand its programming and facilities for students in the Michiana area.

The project will more than double the size of the facility from 12,047 square feet to 29,086 square feet for classes beginning in the fall of 2018, college officials said in a statement.

“In my 20 years here we have renovated and expanded almost every building on campus,” President Dr. David Mathews said of SMC’s largest undertaking. “Not once have we gone out seeking public support through donations. We were very successful with our state funding request because of the need for more nurses and health care professionals and because of hard work by our legislators, led tirelessly by Al Pscholka, now state budget director."

Since the Michigan Legislature appropriated $4 million, architectural renderings have been developed with bids expected to be awarded in April for a late May groundbreaking. At the same time, the college readied a $2.6 million major gifts initiative.

“We provide upward mobility to so many area residents who come here for education and find a good-paying professional job with career advancement so they can provide for their families. That happens through SMC already. It will happen on a larger scale with this,” Mathews said.

New facilities will allow SMC to accept more students into specialized programs such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Health Information Technician (HIT), medical assisting, phlebotomy and electrocardiogram (ECG) technician, in addition to registered nursing.

The college will be better positioned to accommodate needs of local hospitals and health care professionals who utilize SMC as a meeting and training site.

A dedicated CNA classroom will house a regional testing center for southwest Michigan and northern Indiana.

The new Nursing and Health Education Building contains eight classrooms, a 20-bed skills lab, four simulation labs replicating hospital rooms, a dedicated medical assisting classroom and student-faculty collaboration areas.

“Simulation labs nationally are partially replacing clinical instruction in hospitals and nursing homes,” Mathews said. “In a six-week rotation on a maternity ward, students may see a few children born. If they have simulation robots that can give birth, they can do it over and over again while being tested on all sorts of scenarios."

College officials and nursing faculty visited Grand Valley State University, Lansing Community College and others to see how they incorporate clinical simulation into curriculum.

Each simulation lab contains a SimMan mannequin capable of emulating real-life medical emergencies, such as high blood pressure, vomiting, cardiac arrest and bleeding.

SimMan can be programmed to respond in different ways, complaining of pain or being a difficult patient. Skills labs provide students a place to practice inserting IVs, checking blood pressure and performing total-body assessments. 

Architects Abonmarche Consultants, Benton Harbor, wrap a “u” shape around the existing floor plan. A central “spine” runs north-south from the Briegel administration building through the new glassed atrium facing residence halls.

“We’ve designed this building to maximize natural daylight during winter and to provide sunscreen and shade during summer with tinted glass and argon gas-insulated panels,” architect Arvin Delacruz said.

Nursing instruction will move to Mathews Conference Center East during construction.

“We’ll continue watching every dollar we spend and we’re careful not to overbuild, but here we’re planning for growth and looking at programs like occupational therapy, physical therapy and respiratory therapy assistants,” Mathews said.


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