RENO — Get your stethoscopes ready because the University of Nevada, Reno has a new state-of-the-art health sciences building where students can train to be doctors and nurses.
The 59,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly William N. Pennington Health Sciences Building opened a few weeks ago to University of Nevada School of Medicine students and this week to Orvis School of Nursing pupils. It features three simulation laboratories, 14 patient rooms, an anatomy laboratory, a multidisciplinary laboratory, a nursing skills lab, two large lecture halls and smaller rooms and classrooms for group work sessions.
Patsy Ruchala, who has served as the director of the school of nursing for seven years, said the new facility has been sorely needed for a long time and that she could not be more thrilled to finally see its completion.
“We have needed this building since I walked in the door,” Ruchala said on Thursday. “This building gave us the space we needed when we doubled enrollment in 2004.”
Ruchala said there currently are 23 full-time staff members and about 200 nursing students and close to 200 medical students enrolled at UNR.
The building will serve as the hub of the health sciences campus, and Ruchala said one thing she likes is it allows for nursing and medical students to work side by side during their education.
“It lends itself to bring medical and nursing students together,” she said. “And that helps them work better together in the workforce when they graduate.”
Along with the facility, the school received life-sized robotic mannequins that simulate real symptoms, vital signs and reactions to treatment. Though the school previously utilized simulators, Ruchala said the new mannequins are more technologically advanced.
“They are next generation,” Ruchala said of the simulators, which are named “Harvey.” “These are the most sophisticated that are on the market.”
Medical students on Thursday, for example, were working with Harvey to learn how to detect heart murmurs.
“(Harvey) can manifest more of the physiological symptoms of a real person,” Ruchala said.
First-year nursing students Kelly Verling and Penny Nemec, who just started school this week, said they love the new building.
“It’s awesome,” Nemec said, as she practiced taking Verling’s blood pressure in the nursing skills lab Thursday morning. “And it is really nice that all the classes can be right here in one area instead of having to go all over campus.”
“I also like not having to park five miles away,” Verling said.
Pennington’s two large lecture halls hold 200 students each and are equipped with large-screen capabilities for integrated learning. The lecture halls are linked to a campus broadcast system which allows for communication with classes being held in other buildings.
“The objective is to be able to grow the class sizes,” said Stefanie Scoppettone, Ph.D., director of development for the UNR division of health sciences.
Funding for the Pennington Health Sciences Building included $3 million allocated by the state Legislature for planning, $31 million on construction bonding approved by the 2009 Legislature’s capital improvement project budget and about $15 million in private donations, including $10 million from the William N. Pennington Foundation.
According to a press release, Pennington was a longtime supporter of UNR and was named a Distinguished Nevadan by the Nevada System of Higher Education in 1997 for his outstanding contributions to higher education in the state.
Other major benefactors of the project include the Nell J. Redfield Foundation, Thelma B. and Thomas P. Hart Foundation, Renown Health and others.