“We asked for the moon, and they tried to give it to us,” says Miriam Laney, dean of Health Sciences at Central Carolina Technical College.
That’s how she describes the college’s new Health Sciences Center that opened in downtown Sumter in August 2010. The sprawling building features nearly 70,000 square feet of classrooms and state-of-the-art laboratories equipped with the latest developments in medical technology. The grand opening was a triumphant moment for everyone involved in making the dream come true.
“This new facility is a reality because of the cooperation that exists between our partners, such as the city of Sumter, our legislative delegation and the health-care providers in this region,” says CCTC President Dr. Tim Hardee. “The Health Sciences Center will enable many of our 4,300 students to reach their career goals because of the state-of-the-art technology available for training health-care professionals."
State-of-the-Art Teaching Technology
The dean, herself a registered nurse, can barely suppress her excitement when she talks about the new building and the far-reaching benefits it provides. “Before we opened the new Health Sciences Center, we subscribed to the ‘pretend theory of learning,’” she explains. “We had to ‘pretend’ to turn on the oxygen flow meter or ‘pretend’ to turn on an operating room light. Now, we have the actual equipment to practice on.”
In addition to more and better classrooms, the new Health Sciences Center replicates doctors' offices, operating rooms and hospital wards. When studying childbirth, for example, nursing students now come face-to-face with a computerized Gaumard simulator named NOELLE.
“She talks. She urinates. She bleeds,” the dean explains. “She actually pushes baby HAL out of her body. We can even make the simulator die. It’s as close to having a real patient as you can get.”
Health Sciences Medical Degree and Certificate Programs
The Health Sciences Department offers diploma programs that range from nursing to surgical technology, and certificate programs from phlebotomy to massage therapy, and the college has always graduated top-notch students. In May 2010, CCTC was one of only seven of the state’s 23 nursing schools to have a 100 percent passing rate for those taking the state licensing exam. The new facility simply ensures that the college continues to offer the best education available.
“The medical field is a scary place because you have people’s lives in your hands,” Laney continues. “The technological boom simply requires that medical professionals be trained differently. Computer-simulated training decreases a student’s anxiety and increases their experience so that when they get in a real situation, they know what to do.”
New Life for Downtown Sumter
Certainly the new Health Sciences Center benefits students and teachers, Laney says, but it has also breathed new life into downtown Sumter. The city donated the rambling old Western Auto Building for the project. Not only has a downtown landmark been repurposed, but local businesses also report an influx of new customers.
Though the current job market is tight, numerous studies point to a coming shortage of skilled health-care workers — and those who teach them — in South Carolina and nationwide. The college admitted its largest class of nurses in 2010, and has also increased enrollment for other health-care-related majors. Residents in Clarendon, Lee, Kershaw and Sumter counties stand to benefit most, as the majority of graduates go to work in nearby hospitals and doctors' offices.
“If you haven’t been a patient recently, sooner or later you are going to be one,” the dean says. “Then you are going to want a phlebotomist who only has to stick you once to draw blood or a massage therapist who can relieve your suffering with the touch of her hands.”
Read more on health care in Sumter, SC.