Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC celebrates $9.6-million nursing building

01/11/2019 - 11am
Janie Reifenberg of Honor Credit Union interacts with Sim Lab robots

An eight-year effort to propel Southwestern Michigan College’s flagship program into a new era culminated Jan. 9. SMC celebrated completion of a $9.6-million expansion that more than doubles its Nursing and Health Education Building to 29,086 square feet.

“The goal of this project was to create a facility matching the quality of the program we were already delivering,” President Dr. David Mathews said. “Although this is a beautiful building, what happens here happens because of the people delivering education. The next 50 years of nursing and health education at SMC is going to be even more exciting than the last 50.”

SMC’s new facility will allow training more than the 80 nurses accepted annually to help address a projected U.S. shortage of 260,000 by 2025. Health care is Michigan’s largest employer, but faces a gap of 25,725 nurses by 2030 — worst among Midwestern states and eighth nationally.

Visitors touring the facility seemed drawn to the hospital-like, four-bed Karen K. Rose Simulation Lab.

“This is where students interact with robots in very challenging scenarios,” Mathews said. “Unquestionably, students get a better experience with simulation. If a student is on the maternity ward in a hospital when a baby is born, they’re pushed to the back to watch professionals deliver the baby. Our students will be able to participate in the birthing of babies where things go right and things go wrong. Simulations are videotaped, debriefed and done again and again. That’s just one example of the power of simulations. We have one of the national experts and advocates for simulation in nursing education with us.”

Dr. Pamela Jeffries, dean of George Washington University School of Nursing in Washington, D.C., praised SMC for “getting it right.”

“This is an amazing, state-of-the-art space,” said Jeffries, who addressed students in the afternoon. “You guys have arrived! It’s so important students have a safe, non-threatening environment to practice in before taking care of us. Nursing is the most trusted profession and one of the largest workforces at 3 million. I call simulation ‘clinical redesign.’ I wish I had simulation as an undergraduate at Ball State University in the ’70s.

“We immerse them in a replicated clinical environment,” Jeffries said, “so they actually get to practice being an RN. When learners go out to clinicals, they’re student nurses because of hospital liability. Here we can watch them problem-solve, make decisions and see how they communicate with patients, families and each other. The investment this community has made is unbelievable — and it looks like the whole community’s here tonight!”

Amber Villwock, a Lakeland Health emergency room nurse, faculty member and simulation lab coordinator, said, “Every scenario, I try to program things I see in the ER.”

Lifelike mannequins from Miami’s Gaumard Scientific include Victoria, which can give birth; newborn Super Tory for neonatal training; and Pediatric HAL, a 5-year-old boy with a “pulse” that can talk, cry and go into anaphylactic shock.

“We extend an extraordinary appreciation to this community for making this possible,” Dr. Carole Schmidt said on behalf of the SMC Foundation. Its first such capital campaign in SMC’s 55-year history contributed $1.1 million to go with $4.0 million the State of Michigan granted.

SMC alumna Rose Middleton Willson of Cassopolis Family Clinic Network also spoke on behalf of Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce.

The new nursing facility also contains two eight-bed skills labs, eight classrooms, three debriefing rooms and a dedicated medical assisting classroom.

Work started in August 2017 with Rockford Construction, Grand Rapids, as general contractor. Architects for the building between the residence halls and the David C. Briegel administration building on the Dowagiac campus are Abonmarche, Benton Harbor.