WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College held an open house Tuesday to cut the ribbon on its newly-renovated health sciences facilities and give visitors a closer look at the state-of-the-art equipment used in training skilled health care professionals.
Renovations to the William E. Fulford and Herman Simon buildings began shortly after the college’s science programming moved into the new Walter and Marie Williams Building in August 2017. PCC turned the space left behind into a 10-bed simulation hospital, simulation laboratories, an Emergency Medical Science classroom and laboratory, a Medical and Cardiovascular Sonography classroom and scanning laboratory, and a hot lab for Nuclear Medicine Technology.
According to PCC Health Sciences Dean Donna Neal, the project, which included new equipment, cost $1.61 million, with much of the funding provided by Vidant Medical Center (VMC) and the Golden LEAF Foundation. VMC, she said, awarded the college a $500,000-grant during the summer to help purchase high-tech patient simulators, while Golden LEAF provided a $200,000-grant.
“This project is a great example of a partnership between a community college, major employer and foundation dedicated to increasing educational opportunities for students and meeting the workforce needs for qualified nursing and allied health professionals in eastern North Carolina,” Neal said.
Mark Sorrells, senior vice president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, said providing funding for the renovations stemmed from the organization’s commitment to investing in “the physical and human infrastructure” of North Carolina and its rural communities. He said that with VMC being a major employer in Greenville and eastern North Carolina, in general, it made sense to invest in a college that can prepare many health care professionals for jobs in their respective communities.
“Part of what we do in working with community colleges, particularly here at Pitt Community College, is to invest in the talent and the programs that align to the high-need employment areas of the state,” Sorrells said. “Our state is growing and, with that, the health needs and employment opportunities in health care are really exploding.”
Dr. Kim Crickmore, vice president of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital at VMC, said the PCC-Vidant partnership is critical to ensuring eastern North Carolina has the health care providers it needs to offer high-quality care. She added that the improvements to Pitt’s health sciences facilities will enhance the college’s ability to prepare graduates proficient and confident enough to provide high-level care in real-life situations.
The crown jewel of the renovation project is the simulation hospital. Neal says it is outfitted with equipment typically found in hospitals and provides students a real-world training environment to practice techniques and procedures they couldn’t practice otherwise.
“The simulation hospital will provide students the experiential learning they can’t always engage in during real-life patient care,” she said.
Neal said instructors can run simulations and observe students from a control room situated between a pair of five-bed hospital units. She said the exercises, which involve students working with highly-advanced human patient simulators, can be recorded and played back for students during a debriefing period.
Neal emphasized that the simulation hospital is not just for training nurses.
“The simulation hospital will serve as a clinical placement for our students and allow students from multiple programs to work together, like they would in an actual hospital environment,” she said. “It is also providing PCC the opportunity to expand enrollment in several of our health sciences programs, including nursing.”
As a result of the renovations, Neal said PCC can serve as many as 300 nursing students annually. She said many of them will eventually join fellow health sciences graduates for work at local health care agencies and VMC, which currently employs approximately 80 percent of PCC’s nursing grads.
“Most of the students enrolling in PCC health sciences programs are from this region,” Neal said. “They were born here, have grown up here, and want to find a job here, so they can remain close to their families. And for many graduates, it is easy to do, given health care is a leading industry in Pitt County and eastern North Carolina.”
Though the new simulation hospital is structurally complete, Neal said PCC would not use it regularly until the 2019 Spring Semester begins in January.