School of Nursing relocating to The Medical Center in the fall

Jackson French

Next semester, nursing classes will no longer be offered on WKU’s main campus but will instead take place in a new building adjacent to The Medical Center on Park Street.

Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction, said the new building, officially called The Medical Center-WKU Health Sciences Complex, will house the school’s revamped nursing program.

“It’s a shared use building, and WKU’s going to occupy approximately 80 percent of the building,” Russell said.

Russell said The Medical Center is paying for the new complex and WKU will be leasing it.

Mary P. Bennett, director of the School of Nursing, said the move is necessary to accommodate the nursing program’s upcoming expansions.

“The nursing program is doubling in size, which is why we need more space,” Bennett said. “There’s not room for the expanded programs and the new programs on Main Campus.”

“Without the new building, we did not have adequate facilities even for our current classes because they were so antiquated and small, and we’ve totally outgrown them.”

Bennett said while nursing classes currently held in the Academic Complex and Tate Page Hall will be moving, the associate degree nursing program will stay on South Campus.

Melinda Joyce, The Medical Center’s vice president of corporate support services, said the building will also house facilities The Medical Center will use to train new staff members.

“Even after graduation, the need for education of our staff is always increasing,” Joyce said. “So, we will need to make sure that we’ve got a good place; that we are able to continue the high-quality education that we provide our staff.”

During the process of constructing the new facility, Russell said he served as project manager, collaborating with architect Paul W. Edwards from the Louisville firm Stengel Hill Architecture.

“They’re on schedule and under budget, and we’re going to be opening up for classes in August of 2013,” Russell said.

Russell said the facility will include high-tech observation rooms and medical labs, which will include state-of-the-art training mannequins.

Joyce said one of the mannequins can simulate the effects of numerous medications, disorders, and emergency situations for The Medical Center’s clinical staff to use.

“They will be able to learn from these scenarios in the simulation lab before they are actually practicing with patients,” Joyce said.

Russell also said the new building will house a cadaver lab.

“That’s where students learn muscles, how they’re connected,” he said. “They would typically do dissections and learn all the parts of the body.”

With the space and technologies the new building provides, Bennett said the School of Nursing can accept more applicants and better educate its students.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to meet the standards that we really need to meet for nursing,” Bennett said.

Louisville senior Abbey Feinn, a nursing major, said she is excited that WKU is investing more in its nursing program, which she feels has been largely ignored in recent years.

“It’s a strong program already, but with having our own building, I think that it’ll give the program a lot more credibility and a lot more resources to train nurses more effectively,” Feinn said.

Jen Gannott, a Louisville senior also majoring in nursing, said she thinks the new building’s proximity to The Medical Center will be beneficial to the nursing program.

“We’ll be really close with all the people who have the same classes as us, and our instructors will be close by,” Gannott said.

Feinn said nursing majors regularly go to The Medical Center and Greenview Regional Hospital for clinicals.

“Having classes off campus is not really a big deal, because we’re already off campus a lot,” she said.

Joyce said the enlargement of WKU’s nursing program is important for The Medical Center because many of their employees are graduates of the School of Nursing.

“Being able to increase the enrollment is something that is very important for Western, but also very important for the Medical Center as we look at our workforce,” Joyce said.

“It was a natural fit to have this partnership and this collaboration.”