Published: Wed Jul 30, 2008The grand opening of Tennessee Tech University’s new Nursing and Health Services building is set for 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 15 — and the occasion is especially significant to the academic program that began at the university in 1980.
That’s because the 67,500-square-foot, $24 million building is the first facility to be designed and built specifically for TTU’s nursing program.
Partly because of that distinction, it incorporates features that pay tribute to the past while simultaneously embracing innovations of the future.
“Functionality was our primary goal. We wanted this building to be attractive and accommodating without being overbearing, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” said Glenn Binkley, assistant director of Facilities and Business Services at TTU.
Nursing director Sheila Green agreed. “Throughout this process, I consulted with administrators from other nursing schools in the state and around the country to select features that represent the best of what actually works and avoid features that don’t.”
In addition to the School of Nursing, the new building also features an updated Health Services department and a semi-separate, 282-seat auditorium that can be used for campus, community and health care industry purposes.
Of the total $24 million construction and furnishing costs, state funding provided $15.4 million, federal funding provided $2.5 million, and the remaining $6.1 million was provided by private donations. Student tuition and fees were not used to fund any portion of the building costs.
Those private donations were beneficial in helping to afford some of the building’s state-of-the-art innovations, such as a $1 million, 60-station computer lab, fundamentals lab, women’s health lab and critical care lab that all replicate actual hospital settings.
The heart of the School of Nursing, however, is its spacious rotunda entrance that pays tribute to the history of both the nursing profession and the university’s field of study, while simultaneously tying together its administrative offices, classrooms and labs, located on two levels of the new building.
Set in the middle of its durable terrazzo flooring is the seal for nursing at TTU, which was designed in 1980 by members of the university’s first nursing class.
Words associated with the nursing profession are printed on windows above doorways leading out of the rotunda, and the Florence Nightingale Pledge and the International Pledge for Nursing are posted on the walls to either side and just opposite the entrance.
“Unique features like these are especially important for instilling a greater sense of community in an academic program that, in nearly 30 years, has never before had a building dedicated to it,” Green said.
In spite of its lack of facilities, the TTU program consistently trains quality nursing candidates.
May 2008 graduates, for example, achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Exam. The state average is around 92 percent, and the national average is around 85.5 percent.
“Now we will have a building with the same quality as the program I graduated from,” said Amber Hyder, a TTU nursing alumna who now serves as an adjunct instructor in the program.
Green, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, said other special features were chosen to benefit the health and comfort of students. They include soft lighting and maximized sunlight, ergonomic seating, wireless capability, student lounge and abundant soft seating in a color scheme of mocha, sage and eggplant.
“Nursing students can anticipate being in class from eight to 12 hours a day, and much of that time will be in this building, so we felt it was important to make it as warm, comfortable and inviting as our resources would allow,” she said.
Because nursing courses generally center on groups of eight students, three kinds of classrooms were incorporated into the building’s design: seminar rooms that seat 12, group study rooms that seat 24, and tiered lecture rooms that can accommodate up to 75 students.
Those classrooms will help to double and eventually nearly triple TTU’s nursing enrollment.
They feature furniture with maximum flexibility, meaning that even in the large lecture rooms, smaller student work groups can easily break away from the class as a whole.
Instructors will be able to control the technology in each classroom by entering their personal identification code into individual notebook computers placed on a rolling cart at the front of each room.
Perhaps the most state-of-the-art features of the new nursing school, however, are three computerized patient simulation laboratories. In addition to critical care, the other two focus on basic nursing skills and women’s health and pediatric nursing issues respectively.
“Each laboratory has high-tech, computerized patient simulators that can be programmed to reflect the symptoms associated with any conceivable patient illness,” Green said. “NOELLE, one of the patient simulators for the women’s health lab, is even pregnant and capable of delivering her baby.”
Located on 7th Street at the end of TTU’s Main Quad, the new Nursing and Health Services building serves as “the gateway between the university and Cookeville’s growing medical district,” she said.
The hinge of that gateway is the semi-separate, 282-seat auditorium, which is situated at the rear of the new building and is an ideal facility for providing continuing education programs on a nationally sponsored level to health care providers in the Upper Cumberland region.
Health care providers are required to obtain a certain number of continuing education units each year in order to maintain their licenses, Green explained, but right now that need can be met only as close as Nashville and Knoxville.
“There are three factors that have been shown to contribute to the national nursing shortage — lack of physical facilities, lack of adequately prepared faculty and lack of clinical facilities,” she said. “This new building will help to minimize each of those factors on every level.”