Aylon Pearsall and Allyson Thompson won’t be back to school for another month, but they already can’t wait to try out their new classrooms.
The two will be starting their second year with Linn-Benton Community College’s nursing program at the college’s new Healthcare Occupations Center. They visited the center for its grand opening Wednesday morning in Lebanon.
“It’s beautiful!” said Pearsall, who grew up in Lebanon and now lives in Albany. “Everything is new, and we’re not hodgepodging things together.”
The 43,000-square-foot center at 300 Mullins Drive is part of the Samaritan Health Campus, just across the highway from Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital and adjacent to the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest medical school.
The $16 million building will house all of the community college’s medical programs in one place. It was funded through $8 million in bond funds approved by voters in 2014 plus $8 million in state matching funds, and came in under budget, said President Greg Hamann.
Hamann welcomed visitors to Wednesday’s open house, thanking voters for helping to make the center possible.
Linda Carroll, dean of the college’s health care programs, echoed Hamann’s thanks and gave a brief rundown of the different programs that will be taught at the center.
The center will house programs for nursing and nursing assistants, diagnostic imaging, dental, medical assistants, coding and reimbursement specialists, polysomnographic technicians, phlebotomy, pharmacy technicians and occupational therapy assistants.
The new building means the college’s medical assisting program can grow: It started with 13 students two years ago and jumps to 30 this fall. And 48 nursing students have enrolled in the college’s program currently, but the plan is to expand to 72, Carroll said.
The next challenge: finding more instructors, a problem for medical programs nationwide, said Sheryl Caddy, part of the nursing faculty. “We’ve got the place. We just need the people.”
Maggie Tasker of Philomath, an LBCC nursing program alumna, said her son, Russ Tasker, will be one of the new nursing students this fall. Mother and son are both excited to be a part of the college’s expansion, she said.
“This college makes all the difference to our community,” Maggie Tasker said. “LBCC looks at what’s the need, what education do we need, what training do we need … and they’re nimble on their feet. They can respond.”
Students who toured the facility said they were excited to see real-life equipment and room setups.
Thompson, of Keizer, said she’s especially excited to see things laid out “like a real hospital room.”
At the college’s Albany campus, the best they could manage were hospital beds from the 1970s and a hanging curtain. The new center features oxygen machines, ceiling-mounted lifts for non-mobile patients and a working nurses’ station with a refrigerator and lab for supplies. They even have adjacent bathrooms so students can practice helping a patient transfer from bed to commode.
Even the classrooms are set up with medical realities in mind, Caddy pointed out. The nursing classroom is right next to a hospital-grade elevator, and features double doors so a “patient” can be transported into the classroom while still on a bed.
“At the old campus, to move a bed out of a classroom, you had to take them apart, so that just wasn’t going to happen,” Caddy said.
Earlier this year, the college entered into a partnership with Samsung-IS Healthcare to make possible the purchase of state-of-the-art digital imaging equipment. That equipment is now set up at the new center and classes, which began in June, already are using it.
Using the equipment, students take real digital images while learning how to protect their patients and themselves, said Jennifer Clayton, program director for Diagnostic Imaging.
Before, she said, “We had old, antique equipment that was donated, 30-40 years old.” Some of the machines still used film, which is no longer the practice, she said.
Also, the program was housed in Lebanon’s hospital, leaving it disconnected from the college as a whole.
“This is what’s great: We’re all next door to each other,” Clayton said.