The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) hosted a groundbreaking on campus Friday (Oct. 11) for its new Integrated Health Sciences Building. It is expected to be open for the fall 2021 semester.
The new $37.7 million 80,000 sq. ft., four-story facility will be home to the School of Nursing and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, along with the Nabholz Center for Healthcare Simulation and the Interprofessional Teaching Center to be utilized by the entire College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.
“This new facility will have an immediate impact on the nursing shortage in Arkansas by immediately providing room for 50 more nursing students,” said UCA President Houston Davis. “Since more than 90% of our health care graduates stay in the state to practice, this is very good news for Arkansans.”
Davis also said that the new facility will allow for more students, which will help a backlog issue for the school.
“This building is going to allow us to deal with a lot of those waiting lists that we have. We have students that are just as qualified on the waiting list as those that just got those spots,” he said.
The new facility will allow for classroom space as well as clinical and simulation experiences for a variety of majors in the health care field.
“We’re creating an environment for our students that replicates the collaborative environment they will enter as graduates,” said Jimmy Ishee, dean of the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. “These transformative experiences prepare our students for internships, employment and ultimately, for careers providing exceptional health care.”
The first floor will house the Interprofessional Teaching Center where students will learn and work alongside each other instead of independently, creating a modern health care team. The third floor of the building will house the Nabholz Center for Healthcare Simulation. The state-of-the-art simulation lab will more than double the space of the current simulation lab and provide students with carefully programmed lifelike training scenarios. The remaining two floors will contain classrooms and office space for faculty and staff.
The College of Health and Behavioral Sciences is the largest college at UCA, accounting for more than 34% of undergraduates and 42% of graduate students. The college has more than 1,200 affiliations and contracts with health care entities across the state, while students participate in approximately 420,000 hours of clinical, internship and practicum hours annually, according to the school.
Davis tells Talk Business & Politics that the new facility will be as much about economic development as it will education.
“For this particular building, this is an educational project, but it’s also an economic development project,” he said in reference to the shortage of health care professionals in Arkansas and surrounding states.
Planning and architecture for the facility is by Taggart Architects. Nabholz Construction is the general contractor for the project. Beyond its $37.7 million price tag, an additional $5 million fundraising campaign is underway for facility and equipment support.