SouthCoast Today
December 05, 2012

NEW BEDFORD — Nursing and medical trades students can take advantage of state-of-the-art training facilities now that Bristol Community College’s newly-renovated Health Sciences Suite on Purchase Street has officially opened for business.

“Our guiding principal has always been that students learn best in environments that are real,” Patricia Dent, dean of health sciences, said Tuesday.

The suite opened for the beginning of the fall semester, but the official grand opening was delayed by Hurricane Sandy, BCC spokeswoman Sally Cameron said.

The college gutted the second level of its Purchase Street eHealth Careers campus and rebuilt 6,500 square feet of the 8,300-square-foot floor as laboratory space and training simulators in nursing, phlebotomy, home health aide and other medical programs.

The laboratories, with $550,000 of medical equipment, include life-like dummies on which students can practice taking blood pressure and that instructors can even send into cardiac arrest to put would-be nurses through their paces, said Karen Varieur, director of the eHealth Careers division.

Two suites on the floor hold “high fidelity” dummies that can exhibit symptoms of illness, react to improperly given medications and even complain about being stuck with needles. Each suite cost the college $26,000 and will be used by nursing students.

The project was funded by a partnership between BCC and New Bedford for-profit venture Higher Education Partners, although its total cost was not immediately available Tuesday.

The eHealth Careers program allows students to complete nursing degrees and other medical certificates in a “hybrid” format that has them watching lectures online and attending classes on campus for practical exercises. The programs allow working students to finish degrees, even if they can’t break away from real-life obligations entirely, director of nursing Donna Ayala said.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the field,” said eHealth nursing student Anne Brum, who owns Town Donut on Route 6 in Dartmouth. “This allowed me to come back with a flexible schedule. Without it, I couldn’t have become a nurse.”