Since the summer of 2009, fire science and emergency medical services classes at JJC have been held in two small, temporary trailers located outside G-Building on the south side of Main Campus.
The programs were relocated there when the college’s 40-year-old temporary buildings, where they were previously housed, were torn down to make way for the new Campus Center. The trailers provide very limited space for critical aspects of the learning process for students, such as simulations in which they practice responding to real-life emergencies. There are also no bathrooms in the trailers.
But in the new Health Professions Building, scheduled to open for classes in January 2013, there will be a stunning difference in the way EMS and fire science classes are conducted.
“The biggest improvement in the new building that we’re looking forward to is the ability to incorporate simulations into our classes,” said Duane Stonich, fire science professor.
In addition to their own classrooms and offices, the programs will have dedicated space for conducting simulations, such as a bathroom where EMS students can experience caring for hurt or sick patients who fall between the toilet and the tub, and a simulated ER patient room. In addition, the new building will also include an apparatus floor with an indoor bay big enough for a fire engine, a dispatch room, and classrooms with exhaust systems so students can practice fire behavior experiments safely.
“Having a dedicated space for real-life simulated scenarios will be of utmost benefit,” said Charlotte Garrabrant, EMS professor. “I can tell students that it is difficult to get a patient out from between the wall and a toilet or what it is like to care for a patient in the back of an ambulance, but until they can experience it in a nearly real environment, they will have no idea how to handle it. It’s the enhanced hands-on training capability that will be my favorite part of the new building.”
Fire Science and EMS are just two of JJC’s health care programs that will be moving into the 124,000 square-foot Health Professions Building when it is completed. The three-story building has space allotted for nursing/certified nurse assistant, radiologic technology, CPR, electrocardiography technician, phlebotomy and for future programs the college is considering such as physical therapy assistant and ultrasound/sonography.
The college’s nursing program is the largest associate degree nursing program in the state, according to Nursing, Allied Health and Emergency Services Department Chair Mary Beth Luna. Luna said the program will also benefit significantly from the improved, modern resources planned for the new building.
“The new building will have a large practice lab for our nursing students so they will be able to practice any nursing skill at any time the lab is open,” Luna said. “Currently with our limited space we need to rotate skills stations, so students may need practice a skill, but it may not be readily available. That problem will go away with our new building.”
Beyond providing state-of-the-art learning resources for health care programs, the new building will also help fulfill the college’s role in its district as a vital resource for career preparation. In fact, one of the college’s goals in its new strategic plan is to develop programs that anticipate and respond to labor market demand.
“One of the things that is most exciting is that we will have the space to expand the health career offerings beyond what we have currently,” Luna added. “Because of that, JJC will be able to respond to the needs of the local community in educating and training the health care workforce.”
Employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2008 through 2018 reveal that the health care and social assistance industry will make up approximately 26 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. economy, which add up to four million new jobs.
And in a recent report by the Workforce Boards of Metropolitan Chicago, the health care and social
assistance field is also projected to have the largest increase in jobs through 2020, expected to add more than 80,000 jobs through 2015 and more than 140,000 through 2020.
In an address to community members at the groundbreaking for the Health Professions Building in January 2011, late JJC President Dr. Gena Proulx spoke about the correlation between the plans for the building and vital skills shortages in the labor market, saying that the modern learning environment the building will provide was critical to providing students with the necessary training needed to take advantage of job opportunities.
Creating a stronger link between colleges and labor market demands is also a goal for the state of Illinois. As part of his 2012 State of the State address, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn stressed the vital role higher education institutions have in the state’s goal of preparing students for jobs in the 21st century.
“The Illinois Jobs Agenda for 2012 will also move Illinois forward by investing in education,” he said. “The best economic tool a state can have is a strong, innovative education system… [Lieutenant Governor Shelia Simon] and I have a mission in Illinois – by 2025, we want at least 60 percent of adults in our state to have a college degree, an associate degree or a career certificate.”
With future growth and additional programs in mind, the building design incorporates the utmost flexibility and room for expansion. Movable walls and furniture enable the auditorium to adapt to audiences ranging from 20 to 150, and with identical classrooms on the first and second floors, all
departments will have access to them as needed.
“As a vital, life-changing resource for thousands of students, JJC is demonstrating its commitment to training and preparing skilled health care workers by investing in the Health Professions Building,” said Luna. “With health care careers only expected to grow in the coming years, this building could not come at a better time for those needing job
training in our community.”