A facility to train nurses for the growing healthcare industry in western Massachusetts is expanding.
The UMass Amherst College of Nursing Tuesday showed off its newly expanded laboratory in the Springfield satellite campus where students can train on patient simulators with the same equipment they’ll find in most modern hospital rooms.
Stephen Cavanagh, dean of the College of Nursing, said applications for admission to the 17-month nursing program have nearly doubled since it moved to the UMass Center in Springfield in 2017.
"We currently have over 80 students doing the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program through UMass Amherst and next semester in the fall we will be adding another 95 to those, so we are having a really excellent recruitment to the program here in the Springfield center," said Cavanagh.
Many of the students enrolled in the program are from the Springfield area and will seek employment in the region after graduation.
" The Springfield center is absolutely essential for us," said Cavanagh.
The expanded lab features $720,000 in vital signs monitoring equipment donated by Washington-based Spacelabs Healthcare. It includes fetal-maternal monitors, ambulatory blood pressure monitors, multiple nursing monitors and invasive cardiac outputs.
" This is expensive equipment which we would not normally have had," said Cavanagh. "It enables our students to be fully equipped to meet many of the challenges they'll face. I like the idea that we can train students here in a safe environment. They can make their mistakes and we can work with them and the transition to work is smooth for the employer."
Meghan Paugh, a student in the accelerated program, said using the equipment in the lab has taught her a lot.
" This is very realistic," said Paugh. " I find it to be really helpful for when I do go into the hospital."
Sujit Kumar, president of Spacelabs Healthcare, said the company benefits from the feedback it receives from nursing students using its equipment.
" The donation of the equipment is one part," said Kumar. "We work with nurses in practice and in school right now and learn from them and design tools that make their lives easier."
The UMass satellite campus in Springfield, located on the second floor of the Tower Square office building on Main Street, opened in September 2014 with an initial enrollment of 300. More than 1,000 students are now enrolled there.
In addition to nursing, there are programs in information technology security, addiction counseling, education, and a part-time MBA program.