With two-story glass windows that frame the front of the $6.1 million, 31,000-square-foot red-brick structure, the Nursing and Allied Health Building is the newest addition to the 80-acre campus of Carroll Community College in Westminster.
Nearly 100 nursing students stroll past the purple lobby walls to get to the four classrooms and four laboratories that are shared with students in allied health, which includes physical therapist assistant, emergency medical services and continuing education programs.
"The building gives us state-of-the-art facilities to allow students to learn," said James Ball, vice president of academic and student affairs and dean of the faculty.
Although the facility opened to students on the first day of classes Aug. 30, the building will be dedicated at 2 p.m. today, with Carroll County officials and members of the college's board of trustees.
Students Jennifer Alder and Kim Graf said they are taking advantage of the college's expanded program, which provides registered nursing classes. There are 34 other second-year students in the program.
"A lot more students continued on for the second year because they are pleased [the program] is here at Carroll, close to home," Alder said.
Graf said the location is convenient. "I know my classmates, so we can form study groups, and I know what's expected from my professors," she said.
There are also 62 first-year students enrolled in the licensed practical nursing program. In the past, these students had to transfer to Frederick Community College or apply to another school to become a registered nurse. Now, Carroll Community is one of 15 colleges offering an associate's degree in the program approved by the Maryland Board of Nursing.
"We were the only local county that did not have a registered nursing program before this year," said Nancy Perry, nursing program director.
The nursing, physical therapist assistant and continuing education programs used to share one lab, which Perry described as a large classroom that was constantly in use. Now, there is a lab for each, as well as for emergency medical services classes.
"Our students come out with a strong theoretical and critical knowledge of nursing and physical therapy, but also practical skills learned in real-life settings in our labs and in clinics around the area," Ball said.
Graf said the new labs look like a real hospital, while "the old lab looked like a hospital from the 1970s." She said there is more lab time available for students to work with equipment.
New equipment purchases include nine hospital beds, Hoyer patient lifts, mannequins, models of body parts and an interactive "SimMan" programmed with scenarios for students to treat.
"He is a virtual patient," Perry said. "He simulates breathing and can be connected to an EKG machine to monitor his heart rate."
The facility also has two computer labs, offices and storage, said Alan Schuman, executive vice president of administration. He said that all but one classroom is a "smart room" with a VCR, a DVD player, Internet access and a SMART Board that projects a computer screen onto a large white display surface so professors can make notes and save files.
"I think it is one of the premier buildings in the state for nursing," said Faye Pappalardo, CCC's president.
Probst-Mason, an architectural firm in Baltimore, designed the facility. From the parking lot off Route 32/Washington Road, it is to the left of Great Hall, a central administration and classroom building.
"The building completes the campus architecturally," Ball said. "It creates a very dramatic and welcoming entrance."
The project began several years ago when Pappalardo met with top officials from four local health organizations to gauge the need for expanding the nursing and allied health programs. She said she thought it was important for colleges to respond to the growing need for nurses, allied health technicians and staff.
"We are training our residents of Carroll County to work in Carroll County, and that's very exciting," said Geary Milliken, president and chief executive officer of the Carroll Lutheran Village retirement community.
Approximately 75 percent of the licensed practical nursing graduates work in the county in long-term or acute-care facilities, Perry said.
State grants, the Carroll County government and about $300,000 in personal donations funded the project, according to Schuman.
"We absolutely needed the additional space for classrooms, and the building is very conducive to a learning environment," Pappalardo said.