A rendering of a collaboration area in the addition to the Nursing and Health Education Building. Courtesy Southwestern Michigan College
A college in the region plans to double the size of its nursing and health education building with the help of $4 million from the state.
Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac, at 58900 Cherry Grove Rd., said this week it plans to start renovating its 12,047-square-foot Nursing and Health Education Building in May, increasing its footprint to 29,086 square feet in time for fall 2018 classes.
The college, or SMC, will fund the $9.6-million project — which includes construction, technology, equipment and furnishings — with the state grant, $2 million from the college’s building and site fund and $3.6 million from donors to a capital campaign that’s underway.
David Mathews, president of SMC, said the building project is the largest undertaking in his 20 years at the college.
“We provide upward mobility to so many area residents who come here for education and to find a good-paying professional job with career advancement, so they can provide for their families,” Mathews said. “That happens through SMC already. It will happen on a larger scale with this.”
Abonmarche in Benton Harbor is the project’s architect and interior designer.
The college expects to award the project to a contractor in April.
Uses and features
The building will serve the needs of those studying to become certified nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians, health information technicians and electrocardiogram technicians, as well as those in programs such as nursing, medical assisting and phlebotomy.
It will contain nine classrooms, a 20-bed skills lab, four simulation labs replicating hospital rooms, a dedicated medical assisting classroom and student-faculty collaboration areas.
The college will also use the building as a meeting and training site for local hospital and health care professionals, and a dedicated CNA classroom will house a regional testing center for southwest Michigan and northern Indiana.
Mike O’Brien, VP of marketing and enrollment management at SMC, said the building will “expand out in every direction” from its current configuration.
It will have a two-story atrium in the front and be one story throughout the rest of the building. The finished space will connect to the David C. Briegel College Services Building via a walkway.
Renderings and a three-dimensional tour of the building show that it will be laid out roughly in a plus-sign shape, with a large front lobby/walkway with study spaces, and each wing will contain the various classrooms, meeting spaces and labs.
O’Brien said SMC needed the building to accommodate increased demand for talent in the health care field. The extra space will allow the college to expand its nursing enrollment from 40 students per semester to about 60.
The average age of southwest Michigan nurses is 49, with 41 percent retiring in the next 10 years, according to The Michigan Center for Nursing.
SMC said RN job growth nationally is forecast to increase 19 percent, or by 1.05 million job openings, through 2022, as aging baby boomers increasingly need medical care.
“This is a very crucial campaign to create the region’s premier nursing program, which will rival and surpass university-level facilities and instruction,” said Thomas Jerdon, chair, SMC Board of Trustees. “Nursing has been a marquee program, and this marvelous building will continue this legacy for the foreseeable future.”
Mathews said the building will also accommodate growth in other health-related fields.
“We’ll continue watching every dollar we spend, and we’re careful not to overbuild, but here, we’re planning for growth and looking at programs like occupational therapy, physical therapy and respiratory therapy assistants,” Mathews said.