A year ago Congressman Fred Upton stopped by Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac to review preliminary drawings that envisioned a $9.6-million expansion of the Nursing & Health Education Building. He was impressed.
Friday, the Congressman returned to the campus and had considerably more to peruse as construction, which was launched last fall and proceeded throughout the winter season, continues apace, with a target of completion in time for the spring semester beginning in January of 2019.
As he got a personalized tour from the college's President, Dr. David Mathews, Upton said, “It’s awesome, really exciting.” As he removed the hard hat, reflective vest and safety goggles which he had donned for the tour , the Congressman added, “It will really fill a need. (Nursing graduates) will have good jobs on day one.” Upton’s own family demonstrates the increasing demands for in home assistance care which enables his parents — his dad is 94, his mom, 88 — to remain in their own St. Joe home.
Mathews reports that the United States faces a shortage of 250,000 nurses by 2025 — the largest in decades. SMC's Dean of Nursing & Health Services, Rebecca Jellison says, “Hospitals are desperate for nursing help.” She points out that with national accreditation and above-average student pass rates on licensure exams, SMC stood out as one of the region’s best programs when it decided to double the size of its 1970 Nursing and Health Education Building.
Upton gathered with SMC administrators, a representative from Rockford Construction in Grand Rapids and architect Arvin Delacruz from Abonmarche Consultants in Benton Harbor in the David C. Briegel Building boardroom to view a video rendering of what the finished facility will look like inside.
Upton helped the college obtain hospital beds through Stryker Corp., the Kalamazoo-based medical technologies firm. The project will add skill labs and simulation labs with controlled scenarios before students experience real emergencies. The expansion will allow SMC to accept more than 40 students each spring and fall, add new health care programs such as occupational therapy assistant or physical therapy assistant and better prepare graduates for health care industry demands. CNA (certified nursing assistant) and medical assisting will have their own designated areas.
Mathews told the tour group Friday, “All building renovations we’ve done include intentional technology-rich, student-faculty collaboration areas where students sit together in groups near faculty offices where a lot of teaching goes on.” He adds, “Programmable lab robots will allow for repetitive birth simulation, for example, arguably giving our students an experience somewhat better than a traditional clinical, where they might see just one being born during their entire rotation. The national standard now is up to 50-percent of nursing clinical training being replaced by simulation labs, which takes some pressure off hospitals. Seminar rooms can also be used by area health care providers for continuing education.”
Upton told his fellow tour participants, “We’ve been dealing with opioids a lot the past couple of weeks.” He also reference a Detroit Free Press report, “The Tiniest Addicts: How (Upper Peninsula) Babies Became Part of the Opioid Epidemic” about newborns hospitalized for drug withdrawal at the highest rate in Michigan.
Jellison told the Congressman, “We will have pediatric simulators, too,” noting, “We will create scenarios to triage with our students so they’re prepared when patients present with those issues.”