The college of nursing seeks to produce world changers through their new high-tech education center

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While more than 500 people spilled into the halls of the new Isabelle Rutherford Meyer Nursing Education Center with excited laughter and reminiscent chatter on the day the building was officially dedicated, one room was quiet, reverent.

The room, unassuming in a corner of the first floor, is what the dean of the College of Nursing, Dr. Sharon Souter, calls the crown jewel of the 77,000-square-foot building. Phelps Chapel not only serves as a place for students to pause for a moment of prayer, but it also is a symbol of what the university and the College of Nursing represent.

“When parents and families come to UMHB, their number one question is, ‘Why should I send my student to Mary Hardin-Baylor when I can get the same type of education 30 minutes from here and pay half as much?’” Souter said. “I tell them it’s because of that room—that room and what it represents.”

The students who come through the nursing program aren’t just there to learn how to treat symptoms. They are there to serve the whole patient, including the patient’s spiritual needs.

Faith-Based Learning
“To me, having the chapel lays the foundation that God is first here,” said senior nursing major, Anna Burnstad. “Nursing school is stressful. It’s great to have all of the computer labs and simulation labs and have available instructors. But sometimes you need that little piece of quiet where you can just catch your breath for five minutes and remember that there’s a reason that you’re there at the Scott & White College of Nursing. It’s because God has called you there.”

While the chapel provides much needed tranquility in an intense learning environment, the students find other ways outside of the stained glass walls to support each other and live out their faith.

“The students pray before tests, they pray for each other,” Souter said.

And possibly the biggest influence their faith has is on those whose lives they heal and touch.

“One of our students came in from clinicals, and he was really excited,” Souter said. “Typically, when male students are excited it’s because they got to go back to the OR or they got to start an IV or something. But he said, ‘Dr. Souter, I had such a great time at clinicals today.’ And I said, ‘Really, Andrew. What’d you get to do?’ And he said, ‘I got to pray with my patient.’”

That story is the epitome of Christianity in the nursing program, Souter said. And it’s what sets UMHB apart from other nursing programs in the country.

State-of-the-art Facilities
With the opening of the Isabelle Rutherford Meyer Nursing Education Center, another distinctive of the UMHB program is the high-tech setting where students learn.

Not only is there a fully-functioning simulated hospital complete with an emergency room, a Critical Care Unit, and a labor and delivery suite, but there are also rooms filled with real hospital beds and sophisticated mannequins that can sweat, breathe, bleed, and even cry.

“Getting such a high-tech, realistic experience in the program makes it easier to enter a hospital situation—whether that’s in clinicals or as you’re following your career,” Burnstad said. “You can say, ‘I’ve seen this before. I know what to do.’”

The senior nursing student, who will graduate this spring, said that in the nursing program’s previous facilities, students would have to pretend to be in the hospital, administering oxygen by connecting tubing to a picture on the wall.

“With the new facilities, it looks and feels like the real thing because it is the real thing,” Burnstad said.

Vision for the Future
Souter and many others have made sure that the new nursing education center is a state-of-the-art, future-proof building that will meet the needs of a growing number of nursing students.

“We really tried to be visionary,” the dean said. “We toured several newer nursing education centers in the state and across the country. We went to the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins and other places to see how others were doing it well and to hear stories of what they wish they had done differently.”

The team that set out to create a one-of-a-kind, high-tech facility also researched the best classroom designs for fostering teamwork and good communication. Souter also wanted the learning environment to be as realistic as possible.

“I wanted the building to be so state-of-the-art that, when students walked in, they would have the same apprehensiveness that they have when they go into the hospital,” she said. “And we wanted the building to be real and high-tech enough that, when they went anywhere else, nothing would surprise them.”

According to Souter, the new nursing education center allows the students to experience the reality of what they will face in the hospital, with the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.

One aspect of the new building that the dean is most excited about is that the faculty can now remove themselves from the environment and truly hand over a “patient” to a nurse-in-training.

“What was happening before was that the nursing faculty couldn’t get out of the environment and control the mannequins,” she said. “We’re nurses, too, so when a student was about to make a big mistake we’d flinch.”

Now, through a control room, professors can view what their students are doing and control what happens with the simulation mannequins. At the same time the faculty are controlling the scenario, the future nurses are putting their skills to the test and being recorded through a system of cameras.

“When the scenario is complete, we go to the debriefing room and see exactly what they did,” Souter said. “I want the students to be able to think critically, and the simulated scenarios help them do just that.”

World Changers
With the new building already serving 468 students, and more than 670 declared nursing majors on campus, it is safe to say that the college of nursing will be turning out large numbers of highly-skilled nurses in the future, which will help relieve the current nursing shortage.

Souter and the rest of the faculty in the college of nursing want their students to use the new facilities available to them to not only become the best and brightest and help ease the need for more highly-educated nurses, but they also want their students to use their skills to make a real difference.

“I want this building to help us put out graduates who are world changers,” Souter said. “Nursing needs world changers.”

-Jessa Grassi McClure ’08

Take a photo tour of the Isabelle Rutherford Meyer Nursing Education Center