There is a patient experiencing difficulty breathing in room four. Another patient is in full labor just down the hall. The patient in the next room over is only 11, and his blood pressure is dropping fast. Nurses are working with all of them. They’re starting IVs, checking oxygen levels and administering meds. Just an average day at Tuomey Healthcare System? Not at all.
Each of these scenarios is taking place down the street from the hospital, less than a mile away. They are happening in a classroom, with instructors watching behind two-way mirrors, monitoring the students at each turn and recording their work for self-assessments. And it is all taking place at the beautiful new Health Sciences Center at Central Carolina Technical College, where students just finished their first year in the building.
“This building is a dream come true for me,” said Miriam Laney, Dean of Health Sciences. “When it came to creating this building, I was allowed to dream…and I dreamed big.”
The word “big” doesn’t begin to do it justice. The 70,000-square-foot building is something you have to see to believe. It is filled with the best equipment in the education world, backed up by the best instructors.
The life-size patients lying in the beds are as real as they get. They breathe, talk, have vital signs, and one “female” can even deliver a baby. Yes, that’s right: It actually simulates the birthing process so the nursing students will know exactly what to expect – sights, sounds and situations – from the mom and the baby.
“We have equipment that the big universities would love to have, and we have other colleges coming to visit us to see how they can build what we have here in Sumter,” said Laney, beaming with pride. “Our students are training in a facility that looks exactly like the hospitals they will one day be working in. It is so realistic. And this training will create some of the best nurses, because they will be extremely confident in their surroundings.”
Winning Praise and Awards
And the students love it.
Erika Wilcox, a recent graduate of the Central Carolina nursing program, is now an ICU nurse working at Tuomey.
“Central Carolina made sure that I was ready to work the minute that I finished that program,” Wilcox said. “The building that I learned in was as real as it gets. Working with those simulators gave me the confidence to be a great nurse.”
But producing top-notch nurses is nothing new to CCTC. Their scores are among the best in the state. More than 96 percent of their graduates pass their state boards – the NCLEX – on the first attempt.
“Their nurses come ready to work,” said T.K. Smith, Tuomey’s Allied Health recruiter. “I work with a lot of new grads, and the nurses who come from Central Carolina are always prepared and ready to start their careers.”
The Health Sciences Center was partly funded by a $1.7 million grant from The Duke Endowment. Tuomey Healthcare System was one of the hospitals that helped secure that vital grant and it also provides clinical space for the nurse during their training in the hospital setting.
“Finances are always part of the equation, and we would not have been able to do as much as we did without the support of Tuomey and the other hospitals in our area,” said Dr. Tim Hardee, president of Central Carolina. “It’s not just the bricks and mortar. It’s also state-of-the-art equipment and the additional faculty that we needed, and Tuomey played a big role in that.”
The building, located on Main Street in downtown Sumter, is a beautiful addition to the community. The city of Sumter, as well as state and federal funding, played important roles in making the building a reality, Hardee added. In fact, the City of Sumter just won an award for its contribution.
They were honored with the 2011 Municipal Association of S.C. Achievement Award for Economic Development. By taking an eyesore – the building was constructed in the 1960s and had sat vacant for years – and securing the property for CCTC, the city made a beautiful impact on another section of downtown.
“This building is not only a beautiful addition…it serves a real need for this community and our hospital,” said Tuomey President & CEO Jay Cox. “They provide us with extremely qualified employees and they work hard to make sure they are providing the programs that help their students find jobs.”
Training Leads to Jobs
The Health Sciences program also offers training for surgical technicians, massage therapists, medical assistants and phlebotomists. Many of their students have found jobs right here at Tuomey, including 115 of Tuomey’s 400+ nurses.
The partnership that Central Carolina has with Tuomey and the community is very important to Hardee.
“When we built this building, we didn’t want it to just be a training center,” he added. “We wanted it to be a community-friendly building. The entire community made this happen, so we want the community to have an opportunity to use it.”
With that in mind, the building has a large room open to the public. It can be used for a variety of things, such as conferences, Rotary Club meetings or chamber activities.
And with the new space, CCTC is now graduating more than 100 nurses per year, compared to the 60 per year they trained in their old space, which was about one-third the size.
“We’ve always trained good nurses – well, great nurses,” said Laney. “Now we’re training them in the most beautiful building anyone could work in. And they are working with the best equipment and the best instructors. I just can’t say enough about the program we have here.”
Reprinted with permission from Tuomey LifeTimes magazine.
Lin B. Hollowell III
Director of Health Care