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Bismarck State College surgical technology instructor Vanessa Taylor, left, observes students perform a sterile table setup  during a class on Wednesday afternoon. The surgical tech students are, from left, Ellie Gehring, McKayla Haux, Caitlin Phelps and Courtney Lund. Taylor said a sterile table setup involves sponges and instruments used in surgeries. "It's a routine surgical count," she said.

Students in the health sciences programs at Bismarck State College began fall classes Tuesday at a new multimillion-dollar building equipped with a simulated hospital.

The BSC Foundation purchased the new health sciences building — the former Unisys building next to the school — several years ago. State lawmakers this year approved a bill that provided money for a variety of capital projects across the state, including $8.9 million for the new health sciences building.

The school's health sciences programs previously were located at the Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health building in downtown Bismarck. But students and faculty in the programs were outgrowing the space, and a lease on the building was set to expire this summer, according to Carla Hixson, dean of current and emerging technologies.

With funding from the state Legislature, BSC officials were able to purchase the former Unisys building from the Foundation this year, rather than lease it from the Foundation, Hixson said. The Foundation began renovations at the new health sciences building about a year ago, and BSC completed them this year.

The facility is designed to look exactly like a hospital, even including a nurses station and surgery room.

What's unique about the facility is its simulated hospital that allows students to practice responding to various scenarios in a controlled environment. It can be utilized by students in all the health career programs at the school, from nursing to paramedics to surgery technology.

"The concept behind the building is, how about let's do it like integrated health care — demonstrate how each health care profession works together to help a patient," Hixson said.

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Carla Hixson is the dean of current and emerging technologies at Bismarck State College.

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At the end of the program students will use the simulated hospital to do a "run-through" and practice during a simulated event, she said.

The demand for health care workers is growing across the nation, so the idea behind the new building is to accommodate additional student growth, according to Hixson.

The school is continuing to raise money for the second construction phase for its new health sciences building, which will involve an area for its medical lab technician program, Hixson said. The final cost for the second phase is not yet known, but renovations are set to be completed next spring.

Meanwhile, student enrollment climbed at Bismarck State College this year. There were 3,520 full-time and part-time students enrolled at BSC Tuesday — up 3% from 3,429 students at this time last year, according to school Communications Manager Juanita Lee.

BSC President Larry Skogen said he's pleased with the enrollment growth. Last year, the school saw flat enrollment, and for several years student numbers had been gradually decreasing.

Skogen said enrollment in the school's cybersecurity programs are "through the roof." This year is the first year of BSC's four-year degree program in cybersecurity and information technology.

"We feel a lot of optimism because our numbers are up ... the new programming that we've put out there has been well-received by students," Skogen said.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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