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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU School of Nursing moves after 36 years

Finding familiarity in a new setting
Rachel Cormier
Jessica Madrigal, a simulation laboratory specialist for the School of Nursing, describes a scenario a nursing student would practice on the medical manikin next to her. The NIU Nursing Building has moved to the NIU Health, Wellness and Literacy Center at 3100 Sycamore Road. (Rachel Cormier | Northern Star)

DeKALB – The NIU School of Nursing has packed up everything and finally moved from its former location of 36 years.

With the nursing program now located at the NIU Health, Wellness and Literacy Center at 3100 Sycamore Road, the department has been long overdue for the move. 

Since discussions with the DeKalb school district deemed the building a surplus property the building was sold back to the district in April.

But going from a whole building for just one program to sharing one with three other clinics, the change comes as a large improvement to most students.

“I will say we have a lot more storage, so that’s nice,” said Jessica Madrigal, a simulation laboratory specialist for the School of Nursing. “…it feels more welcoming, it feels lighter.”

Madrigal runs medical simulations for nursing students in two labs that mirror actual hospital rooms as closely as possible, from the beds to the “patients” they practice on. 

Students practice medical procedures on medical manikins that mimic human anatomy and physiology to portray emergencies or scenarios that students may possibly interact with.

Several of the lab’s newest equipment has been sponsored by donors, but the move has delayed the equipment from being set up. 

“These manikins are a lot more high-tech, they’re called high fidelity. So they actually talk and breathe, and they have all the different body sounds, and so they’re as close to a real human as you can get,” Madrigal said.

While she says no major changes have shifted the lab’s operations, two new faces have been added to the program.

Students can expect to work with “Victoria,” the center’s first childbirth simulator, and a new young boy manikin named “Hal” which will open the possibility to practice pediatric care.

In addition to the manikins, VALT (Video, Audio, Learning Tool), a live video system used for lab debriefing, has been awaiting implementation for half a year.

The new video software works in tandem with Madrigal’s simulation labs, where individual classmates take part in the lab scenarios while the rest of the class observes their peers in a separate room. 

The new VALT system allows the class in the debriefing room to watch the scenario live, take notes and discuss their peers’ choices. A feature that wasn’t available on the old video system was the ability to record and playback the scenarios which Madrigal can now use to break down every action her students do.

“People are watching you make errors, but you can’t make any sort of growth without errors,” Madrigal said. “You cannot learn how to be a nurse if you don’t fail, but you’d rather fail here than with real people.”

When asked about the biggest change with the move, students noted the larger classrooms and new lounge areas for studying and recreation.

Mace Quinones, a third-year nursing major, said she is taking more advantage of the second floor lounge space, compared to the former building’s lounge area.

“It was small, and I don’t think anyone wanted to stay in the building for too long just because it could get very crowded sometimes or very suffocating,” Quinones said.

Mariam Smith, a third-year member of the nursing program, says the atmosphere is the most noticeable change now that many of her classes have windows and brighter lights than her old classrooms.

“The rooms are bigger, they’re nicer and the windows too, like I’ve been saying,” Smith said. “Me and my friend last year were complaining how dim it was, how we only have one window, no light – we were sleeping in class, but it’s much better.”

The only problem that students have begun to report is the bus system. 

The 17 bus is the only route connected to the NIU Health, Wellness and Literacy Center located off-campus, but a recent email from the School of Nursing said that the stop will possibly be eliminated.

In response, Mary Margaret Evans, program coordinator of the School of Nursing, responded in an email that the school was notified about the issue and would be working with the buses and the university to resolve the issue in the future.

In addition to more study spaces, students will also have access in the future to the Student Success Area which will be an exclusive study and decompression area for nursing students. The area includes private study rooms, an extended conference room and a bean bag area for students to use outside of classes.

Evans has monitored the move since the beginning and oversaw almost every part of the building come along for the trip.

One of the only objects that didn’t get moved were photos of nursing graduate classes that were placed in the NIU archives after the building was relocated.

“When you walked into a classroom, you would see people who went to NIU years and years ago and graduated,” Evans said. “But we didn’t move those over here, so those are archived, so that kind of history is missing.”

While several facilities are still under renovation, Evans has considered creating a medical clinic at the center for graduates to work with real patients, as many patients already frequent the Physical Therapy Clinic and Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic of NIU, located on the first floor.

“I’m not part of the grad program, but I know they started having the initial conversation last year,” Evans said. “So I think it’s definitely something that we’re very interested in, and then the new dean of the College of Science is also really excited about that.”

Even with the most recent move, Evans is still aware the school will be moving again in five years time.

In 2021, NIU staff and faculty involved in the College of Health and Human Sciences proposed a plan to build a $77 million Health Information Technology Center that would “unify health-related programs” at NIU.

The building will reside on Lincoln Hall on the corner of Annie Glidden Road and Lucinda Avenue, but no information has indicated an update on the project’s development since it was announced.

In the meantime, students and staff have thoroughly prepared to settle down for a few years, until the next big move shifts the program once more.

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