By Brendan Dabkowski
Nursing students and faculty members are reaping the benefits of a $1.3-million upgrade to Lewis University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. The renovation of the campus in Romeoville, Ill., includes a 24,000-square-foot expansion of facilities, which include three new simulation labs with state-of-the-art manikins, additional classrooms and faculty offices, new student gathering spaces and a cafe.
Increased matriculation and a desire to create a greater sense of community among nursing students were chief reasons for the campus facelift, which was completed last fall, according to Peggy Rice, EdD, MS, BSN, RN, APN, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, where she also is a professor.
“Enrollment was increasing, and we needed additional classrooms,” Rice said. “We didn’t have a student lounge. We really wanted to have more gathering spaces, too, for students…We have just over 1,100 students in all of our programs. The addition with increased nursing labs and classrooms has allowed us to admit more accelerated and traditional pre-licensure students.”
Margaret Webber, a new RN who graduated in December with a BSN from Lewis and spoke at the school’s open house and dedication ceremony Sept. 24, said the new addition provides more places on campus where nursing students could come together to network, work and relax.
“Besides just allowing more students to attend and be around, the addition has given us more space and study areas,” said Webber, who previously served as vice president and president of the university’s chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association. “It was nice to be able to meet with students before and after class.”
The recent overhaul also included upgrades to technology and bringing in more high-tech equipment to train students, said Kathrynne Skonicki, MSIS, Lewis University’s director of media relations. Three new state-of-the-art simulation labs — complete with beds containing Laedal medical training manikins — provide nursing faculty with the opportunity to give students more diverse learning experiences, Skonicki said.
Rice said educators can program the manikins, and create scenarios to test students’ skills. “They [the manikins] can even be programmed to speak,” Rice said. “They’re very sophisticated, and they expand the capability of what we’re able to teach in our clinical settings.”
“As students, the sim maninkins are the closest you can get to a real patient,” Webber said. “The new labs mean that more students get access to opportunities tht prepare them to handle encounters with real patients.”
With the addition of the three new labs, the college now has six working labs that operate seven days per week. The new labs include functionality that Rice said takes the pressure off students while simultaneously testing their ability to work on their own. Each lab connects with a central control room where faculty members can monitor their students’ progress. “We put in audiovisual recording systems. When the students are working, they are being recorded. Afterwards, we debrief them.”
Overall, Webber said the expansion shows the school’s commitment to investing in its students’ careers. “I think it will prepare students to become the types of nurses who have the right tools to respond to what the changing face of healthcare is bringing,” Webber said.
Brendan Dabkowski is a freelance writer.