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‘Building Healthy Futures’ announced at Board of Trustees meeting

Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees Nov. 20 awarded five-year service pins to Treasurer Becky Moore and Judy Mustak, went into closed session to discuss correspondence from the college’s attorney, discussed fundraising efforts and conducted other business on behalf of SMC. In his President’s Report, Dr. David Mathews presented progress on major gifts to the Nursing and Health Education Building project and announced the launch of the Building Healthy Futures campaign, which will allow all community members to participate in this historic endeavor.

With SMC’s nursing-shortage solution taking shape on its Dowagiac campus, Building Healthy Futures is a great way to be part of educating more nurses to serve southwest Michigan.

Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC), using Touchstone Energy sponsorship dollars, agreed to match all donations of any size to this project received through #GivingTuesday, Nov. 28, up to a total of $5,000.

Thanks to this generous offer, donations will go further in assuring our community has health professionals all of us will need in the future.

The $9.6 million expansion will more than double the size of SMC’s Nursing and Health Education Building, enabling SMC to admit more students into health programs and better prepare them for 21st-century technological demands with simulation labs replicating hospital rooms and skills lab facilities.

“We’re creating a facility which matches the quality of programs we offer within,” Mathews said.

The United States has been dealing with a nursing deficit of varying degrees for decades, but today, with aging baby boomers straining the system, rising incidences of chronic disease, an aging nursing workforce and nursing schools’ limited capacity, a perfect storm is brewing.

Sedentary lifestyles drive obesity rates and diseases such as diabetes upward, so despite being one of the fastest-growing U.S. occupations, nursing demand still outstrips supply.

The national nursing shortage is expected to reach 260,000 by 2025.

There are more Americans over age 65 than at any time in U.S. history. By 2030, one in every five Americans will be a senior.

Demand for health-care services soars since 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition and 68 percent have at least two, according to the National Council on Aging.

While demand mounts, a million of 3 million RNs are older than 50. Some 700,000 nurses are projected to retire by 2024.

“In my 20 years here we have renovated and expanded almost every building on campus,” Mathews said of SMC’s largest undertaking. “Not once have we gone out seeking public support through donations. We were very successful with our state funding request ($4 million) because of the need for more nurses and health-care professionals and because of hard work by our legislators.”

Improved facilities will allow SMC to accept more students into specialized programs such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Health Information Technician (HIT), medical assisting, phlebotomy and electrocardiogram (ECG) technician in addition to RNs.

“With our new building, we will be able to expand services to more than 40 students each spring and fall,” Dean of Nursing and Health Services Rebecca Jellison said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to 56 students in increments of eight because the state mandates eight per faculty person at a clinical site.”

“Simulation labs nationally are partially replacing clinical instruction in hospitals and nursing homes,” Mathews said. “In a six-week rotation on a maternity ward, students may see a few children born. If they have simulation robots that can give birth, they can do it over and over again while being tested on all sorts of scenarios.”

Each simulation lab contains a mannequin capable of emulating medical emergencies, such as high blood pressure, vomiting, cardiac arrest and bleeding.

Mannequins can be programmed to respond in various ways, complaining of pain or being a difficult patient.

Skills labs provide students a place to practice inserting IVs, checking blood pressure and performing total-body assessments.

Nursing degrees are “typically economically transformative for families,” Mathews said. “We provide upward mobility to so many area residents who come here for education and find a good-paying professional job with career advancement. That happens through SMC already. It will happen on a larger scale with this.”

For more information on supporting Building Healthy Futures, visit the new web site, or contact Director of Development Eileen Toney at (269) 782-1301 or