New learning center gives fresh air to program

By Melissa Wilson - Staff Reporter



The faculty are trying to make the new Respiratory Care section in Building 26 as much like a hospital as possible.

The construction on Build- ing 26 will include updates for several programs including Re- spiratory Care.

The building is now sched- uled to open at the beginning of Winter Quarter 2020.

It was originally scheduled to open for Fall Quarter 2019, but construction was delayed due to weather and other complica- tions.

The Building 26 reopening will come just in time as High- line's associates program will transform into a full-on bache- lor's degree program.

Starting in the fall of 2019 there will be no Respirato- ry Care associates program at Highline.

The current students will graduate with their associates degrees but after that students will only be admitted into a new bachelors program.

The reason for this is that the associates degree requirements kept growing and the degree is currently up to 140 credits. Because it was already so big, making it a bachelors program will only add two more quarters to a student education.

There are only 22 spots avail- able for the whole bachelors program and they already have 60 applicants.

Highline's associates pro- gram has been recognized for their students' high passing rates in the National Credential Exams for several years in a row including this year.

They hold the record for pass rates in the surrounding states including states with bachelor's programs.

They have been planning this project for a long time and the architects and planners have been very accommodating in helping the professors make ev- erything perfect, said Nicki Bly, the department coordinator of the Respiratory Care depart- ment.

The planners made a mock- up out of plywood of what ev- erything would look like in the hospital bays in Building 26. The faculty got to go in and make changes to make sure they were providing the best environment for the students to work in, Bly said.

They made corrections such as adjusting the height of the wall- board that holds the oxygen tanks.

Building 26 will have two kinds of labs. One is for prac- tice and it is modeled after real Intensive Care Unit Labs. The other is for simulations.  

Simulations are where students practice their newly learned skills on special mannequins.  Some of these mannequins can talk and receive a lot of the treatments and tests that humans can.

Now they will have state-of-the-art camera systems installed in both kinds of labs.  The new video system will be fully integrated into the rooms.  

 "The biggest change for us will be the audio-visual capabilities," Bly said.

When students learn a new skill, they will practice it many times and then they can use this system to film themselves.  They will then submit this video to the department faculty for review and feedback.  To make everything fair, multiple faculty review and provide feedback on each video.  

"I can't wait!" Bly said.

Right now the department just has a small handheld camera that students have to carry around with them when they want to film their sessions.

Building 26 will have 11 ICU rooms for students to practice in.  The rooms will be similar to what they have now in their temporary location in Building 23, but bigger, separated, and more like a real hospital.  

In the temporary location everything is thrown together in piles and there are pipes and tubes coming out of the walls.  Oxygen tanks are scattered around the room because there is no storage.  

In the new building they will have new storage and professors will be able to access the equipment conveniently for specific lessons.

They weren't allowed to put too many holes in the walls in Building 23 so they don't currently have real suction and the students have to make sound effects when they practice sucking fluids out of mannequins.

In the new space they will have real suction at each of the hospital beds.

In the temporary location there are only four computer stations.

In the new building there will be a computer lab with 24 stations.  They have more and more computerized learning, Bly said, so this will be extremely beneficial.

In the real world, ICU rooms are required to have a window.  The ICU labs at Highline have never had that before.  The new ones will all have two narrow windows on each side of the bed.

Each room will have a new bed and new equipment.  

In the new space they will also be able to simulate working with adult and pediatric patients.

"The realism it'll add will be an important part of letting them learn.  The closer we can make it to what it actually is in a hospital, the better it is for them," Bly said.

They will have one pediatric hospital bay in the new space.  The money to buy the supplies for it is being provided by the Meagan Bly Foundation.  

The foundation is named after Nicki Bly's daughter Meagan who passed away a few years ago.  Meagan was an art student who loved color, Bly said.

"I think she would've been very pleased to see this colorful bay," she said.

After Meagan died, Bly and her family invested money into this foundation, but they didn't know what to do with it.  When Bly had the idea to invest the money into a pediatric unit, her family all agreed that Meagan would've approved, Bly said.

The college is providing a simulated baby, Bly said.  The baby will have body fluids, breathing, and be very much like a real baby.

Because of the new building's simulation lab, they'll be increasing the simulation aspect of the program by 40 percent to give more students more time on them.  

These simulators provide the best way for students to get realistic experience before they go into real ICU labs.

Bly and other Respiratory Care professors visited other campuses with similar facilities and talked to professors there about what worked and what didn't so that they could make Highline's Respiratory Care Center the best it could be.

Highline has a lot of industry partners, hospitals, and equipment suppliers helping them with this project.  These partners include Laerdal Medical, Harborview Medical Center, Swedish Hospital, and Seattle Children's Hospital.

It really is a community among the different hospitals and Highline, said Ann Korn, a Respiratory Care faculty member.

Lots of hospitals give Highline their old equipment when it expires or they decide to replace it, Bly said.  This saves Highline tens of thousands of dollars in equipment.

These hospitals have a vested interest in Highline's program because the students graduating from Highline will be the people working for these hospitals.  Because of this, the hospitals want to help and prepare the students as much as possible.

Lots of people from these hospitals are on Highline's advisory board.  The program wouldn't be what it is today without them, Korn said.

There is a tentative plan to put the Respiratory Care faculty's offices in Building 26.  This would make the professors much more accessible to the students.  

Because they would be so close, they could also provide a lot more potential practice hours and open lab time for the students.

The Respiratory Care program used to be in Building 26, but they were moved temporarily to Building 23 for the construction.  They are looking forward to moving back to Building 26, Bly said.

They will however have less classroom space than they had in the original Building 26 setup.  

"We'll have to figure out how to make that work," Bly said.  

But overall, she said she thinks that it will be worth it.  She said that though it will be less space, it will be better space. 

There are no curtains in between the hospital beds in the temporary area and though it sounds minor, Bly said that it made a big difference.  

With curtains in between the beds it allows multiple teams to work at the same time without distracting each other.  They will have curtains in the new center.

Bly and the other Respiratory Care professors have been kept involved throughout the whole process.  They have been there to answer questions from the planners and they know a lot about the project.

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