Concordia to expand health care professions program with new building

As the medical field continues to be championed for their aid through the pandemic, Concordia unveils a plan to enhance their nursing program.

Students will have access to a newly renovated building in coming years, President William Craft announced at a press conference on June 10. Although delayed because of COVID, Concordia College will soon be refurbishing the Sanford Clinic on Eighth Street for student learning purposes, with estimated time of completion set at 2023. 

This renovation project commemorates the recommitment of Sanford to Concordia for the next 10 years. It will also show appreciation for their support in the past, such as their help with the opening of the Integrated Science Center in 2017. In addition to Sanford’s gift, alumni donations, pledges and naming rights also aided in funding this project.

In thanks for their continuing support, Concordia’s nursing, nutrition, exercise science, social work and healthcare administration programs will now belong to the Sanford Heimarck School of Health Professions. The name will not only recognize Sanford, but also the impact of Theodore Heimarck, a professor who established the healthcare administration program in 1966.

Ted Heimarck, 1990-1991 | Concordia College Archives

This building will feature family and office spaces, as well as laboratories and simulation labs. Chair of the department and professor of nursing Steve Stapleton emphasizes the learning opportunities this new space will offer, especially the simulation labs. 

“The idea of high fidelity simulation is to make sure that you are providing a scenario that is as close to reality as possible and this will allow us to do that,” said Stapleton. The new simulation labs will be very similar to a hospital setting, including life-like mannequins and state-of-the-art technology. 

Stapleton pointed out that students who learn in simulation labs have a better transition into the workforce. Clinicals, although an important part of nursing education, can be overwhelming for students because it is an uncontrolled environment with risks. Students may be pushed to the background in light of a dangerous situation. 

“You don’t learn all the intricacies of that situation, whereas in a simulation lab, you can do that,” said Stapleton. “In a controlled environment, you can stop the simulation and talk about what is happening, why and what the next steps are, so when it happens in real life, it’s all memory.”

Susan Larson, provost and dean of the college, said that “simulations are becoming an important part of nursing education. It can be a really nice supplement to the very important learning that happens (in clinicals).”

In addition to lab experience, this building will create interdisciplinary opportunities, which can help “bring the health professions at Concordia together,” Stapleton said. One example of this is a nursing student and social work student completing a simulated in-home assessment together. 

“We are excited to have a space that facilitates that. We have been doing (interdisciplinary learning), but being together in a shared space will make it that much more powerful,” said Larson. 

Moreover, the Heimarck Center will also improve faculty opportunities. Concordia hopes to hire a simulation coordinator and expand continuing education opportunities through the Center. 

Research is just one example of this. The labs are designed to be used for both student classroom settings and for research, which has potential to benefit Concordia as a whole. 

“We are very interested in asking the questions: Can we provide continuing education opportunities for professionals from the programs that we offer? Can we develop new programs for our own and for those outside Concordia?” said Larson.

Beyond Concordia, the Heimarck Center may improve the F-M area. Local colleges partnering with Sanford allows for recently graduated students to enter the workforce quickly. Bryan Nermoe ‘95, president and CEO of Sanford Fargo recognizes the potential this college town has to offer to the healthcare community. 

“With a record demand for healthcare services, we are at a significant crossroad in our ability to meet workforce challenges. This is why Sanford has historically invested in Concordia College and will continue to do so in the future,” said Nermoe at the press conference held June 10. 

Nermoe hopes Concordia and other local colleges will “meet the rising demand” for healthcare workers in this region.

Concordia recognizes this need along with North Dakota State University. In 2020, NDSU held a grand opening of Aldevron Tower, a building dedicated to their health professions.

With two of the colleges in this area expanding their healthcare programs, Larson believes this will attract incoming students and hopefully send more graduates into the field.

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