New building will provide hands-on clinical experience

Health Professions building concept artby Mary Louise Speer

The skeletal structure of Whatcom Community College’s new Health Professions Education Center is beginning to be fleshed out at the corner of Stuart Road and Cordata Drive, in Cordata Business Park.

When completed, the 28,000 square-foot center will provide state-of-the-art facilities for Whatcom’s medical assisting, massage practitioner, nursing and physical therapy programs under one roof. Currently these classes are spread around the campus in Laidlaw Center and Cascade Hall.

Brian Keeley, Whatcom’s director of facilities, said the location “actually frees up a lot of space on campus, about 20,000-square-feet. One of the things we’re in need of is general classroom space.”

The health center is on track to open for Whatcom’s fall quarter 2013. Students who attend classes there will receive fresh opportunities for hands-on learning with four high-tech simulation labs, and classrooms equipped for lab and lecture space.

Offering the simulation labs at the center is “important because clinical time is really hard to find for all the students,” Keeley said.

The labs will be equipped with high-tech simulators, or medical training mannequins. These animated figures are programmed to demonstrate a variety of clinical conditions such as a person who is experiencing cardiac arrest or giving birth, said Keeley.

The college currently has one simulation lab for health programs, and the center’s facilities will “allow students to do some of their clinical work on campus,” he said. Traditionally students experience this hands-on learning in hospital settings.

Anne Bowen, executive director for the Whatcom Community College Foundation, said the $7.2-million building represents “a great win-win” for the college. The facility is being constructed through a “very innovative public-private partnership” of the foundation with developers Dawson Construction, Blossom Management Corp., and Integrated Real Estate Management, Bowen said.  Zervas Group Architects of Bellingham designed the project.

The foundation, a non-profit organization, will lease the building from the developers and sub-lease it to Whatcom. Bowen said the foundation’s mission is to support the needs of students and college initiatives.

Keeley said the college “didn’t have the money to build the building on campus. So this was a way to build the building we needed.”

When the center is completed, Keeley said it will feature local parking, skylights and plenty of natural light for classrooms, labs, offices and meeting rooms.

In the future a second building may be constructed at the Stuart and Cordata site. A potential use would be a student-run clinic that could serve both students and the public, he said.



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