It's a good time to be a Lipscomb University nursing student.
On Thursday afternoon, university administrators, teachers and students gathered to dedicate the new Nursing and Health Sciences Center.
The ribbon cutting ceremony opened the door to multiple levels of offices, classrooms and high-tech learning spaces in a 24,000-square-foot building worth $8.5 million.
The first two floors are dedicated to student assessments and professor reviews, as well as outpatient care. Students study and practice diagnostic skills, immunization techniques and CPR in the assessment skills laboratory.
The third floor is the health simulation laboratory. With 16 beds, it looks more like a hospital wing. Each bed is equipped with oxygen, fully functioning headwalls and plastic patients.
“This is Harvey,” said Nurse Practitioner and University Professor Mary Hesselrode. “He is a cardio-pulmonary simulator.”
Harvey is one of 19 patient mannequins in the laboratory. Each mannequin exhibits a different medical condition, from heart problems to pregnancy.
“They sweat. They vomit. They bleed,” Hesselrode said.
There is one rule in the laboratory: do not refer to the mannequins as dummies.
“They're very smart, no doubt about that,” said Senior Nursing Student Clint Rider. “Our staff here are very specific, [and] call them 'plastic people.'”
Rider has seen a dramatic transition in the university's nursing program. Not too long ago, oranges and other foods were used as patient simulators.
“We actually did it before we had this building. We had one little corner room and we used hot dogs,” Rider said. “We stuck hot dogs. They had a few fruits, but there wasn't enough for everybody. So there were more hot dogs than oranges.”
In the new building, students master patient assessments, treatments and record keeping through hands-on learning.
Extensive real-world training isn't the only asset of the Nursing and Health Sciences Center.
Libscomb University is fully prepared to use the building as an assessment and stabilization site in time of crisis.
“We could, in a moment's notice, covert this to a triage center in the incident that we would have some type of disaster,” said Beth Youngblood, Executive Associate Dean and Professor of Nursing. “We would be able to probably accommodate somewhere between 30 and 40 people, especially those who aren't critically ill, and kind of help stabilize them and give them some basic first aid care.”
University officials also hope to use the facility for disaster drills or training for organizations like the Red Cross.
The Nursing and Health Sciences Center is described by the school as “a new level of innovative, health-related teaching and learning.”
Libscomb University's nursing program started in 2003 under a partnership with Vanderbilt University.
The partnership ended in 2010. This year's nursing class includes 36 seniors and 79 juniors, the most in the program's history.