Phil Castle, The Business Times
Anne Rogers checks on a patient. Looking up from his bed, his chest slowing moving up and down and his wide eyes blinking, the young, red-headed man isn’t clear about exactly what’s wrong, only that he doesn’t feel good.
Rogers tries to obtain specifics, asking him to assess his level of pain on a scale from one to 10. She assures him she’ll soon make him more comfortable.
It’s a scene that repeatedly plays out in hospitals. Only this isn’t a hospital. Rogers isn’t yet a health care professional. And the patient isn’t a patient, but rather a high-tech mannequin equipped to present a variety of symptoms.
Welcome to the simulation laboratory inside the new health sciences building at Colorado Mesa University, where students perfect a variety of skills they’ll use on the job in actual health care settings.
“It’s a really great learning experience,” says Sandie Nadelson, director of the health sciences department at CMU.
It comes none too soon as a shortage of nurses and other health care professionals worsens in Colorado and elsewhere in the United Sates, Nadelson says. The imbalance between supply and demand has resulted not only in ample job openings for graduates, she adds, but also rising wages to go along with what she considers promising careers.
The health sciences building opened in August at the beginning of the fall semester at CMU, completing two phases of construction at what was formerly the site of Community Hospital on 12th Street in Grand Junction.
CMU purchased the 8-acre site for $7.1 million in 2011 and began renovations and construction in 2016, when Community Hospital moved into a new building on G Road. Counting construction, equipment and furnishings, the health sciences building cost an additional $12.3 million.
The building encompasses nearly 51,600 square feet, including classrooms, laboratories, study areas and faculty and administrative offices.
Nadelson says the new building not only brings together in one place classrooms, labs and offices previously spread out through the Maverick Center, but also affords more space.
Nadelson led a tour through the health sciences building for media as well as a small group of students seeing the new facilities for the first time.
The tour included stops at a large computer laboratory and classrooms as well as rooms that combine a classroom with equipment that allows students to learn about and then practice skills.
A medical technology lab trains students to draw blood and analyze various samples. An X-ray lab trains students on new and older equipment.
The simulation laboratory is set up to look like a hospital with rooms, beds, monitoring equipment and for patients, so-called “smart” mannequins capable of displaying such symptoms as dilated eyes, wheezes and other lung sounds and various heart rhythms.
Video cameras and two-way mirrors allow instructors to watch students interacting with the mannequins over the course of different scenarios. A room equipped with a large flat screen television monitor can be used for debriefings afterwards.
Kayleigh Kochevar, a senior at CMU who expects to graduate in May, was impressed. Kochevar says the simulation lab looks just like the hospital settings in she’s worked during clinical rotations. Moreover, the new facilities add to a program that already has a reputation as one of the best in Colorado, she says.
Nadelson says the health sciences building confirms the commitment of the university to the health sciences department and its students. “Here, we feel very valued.”
The department offers associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in not only nursing, but also medical laboratory and surgical technology and radiological sciences. In addition, the department offers graduate programs that award a master’s of science degree in nursing and doctor of nursing practice degree. Along with training in the new health sciences building, online instruction through interactive programs is available.
“We feel we offer a really strong program,” Nadelson says.
The program produces nurses and other health care professionals not only for hospitals, clinics and other facilities in the Grand Valley, but also elsewhere, she says.
The program also addresses a shortage that’s worsening as an aging population requires more health care services even as many professionals retire, she says.
Wages for nurses and other health care professionals have increased along with demand, Nadelson says, approaching $50,000 a year for registered nurses in Colorado and twice that amount for nurse practitioners.
Kochevar says she’s known she’s wanted to work in health care since she was in sixth grade and is motivated by her desire to help others.
But the prospect of a career that’s in demand and offers increasing wages is like so much welcome icing on the cake, she says.