Governor sees future of health care training

Gov. Beverly Perdue and other state and county leaders saw what they called the future of health care training and workforce development Friday at Catawba Valley Community College.

CVCC presented its 28,000-square-foot regional simulated hospital on the fifth floor of the campus' Cuyler Dunbar Building in Hickory.

"My, oh my, Catawba County is changing the way we teach young people about health care in a real, live environment," Perdue said during a ceremony before touring simulation rooms. "These students will be trained so sophisticated and well. They'll know how to react to crisis and emergency situations."

On the tour, Perdue visited a labor and delivery simulator, where she saw a group of students coach a mannequin that gave birth to a boy named Charlie. The governor talked to an interactive patient, asked him his name and about his ailment. She also watched as emergency-responder students wheeled in the mock victim of a motorcycle accident on a stretcher and briefed a nurse on the man's condition.

Perdue felt mannequins breathe and watched one bleed. She asked students if they liked the hands-on method of training.

"I like everything but the blood," Perdue said during the tour. "This is as good as it gets. It's absolutely the most 21st century medical training I've ever seen. Did you ever think training would get this sophisticated?"

Perdue touted nursing and other health-related jobs as being among the top three fields in the state and the country. She said North Carolina's community college system is a backbone in the current economy for preparing a workforce now and in the future.

The N.C. Community College System currently trains 60 percent of the state's nurses, said system President Scott Ralls. He said the new simulation hospital – which students began using this semester – would have made early community college system and state workforce development leaders of the 1960s proud.

"We get to see what the future is here today," Ralls said. "This is the forerunner of health care education across the community college system, state and country. We're taking people to new places now."

According to CVCC, the simulator is the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River. It was a project more than five years in the making, said CVCC President Garrett Hinshaw.

Hinshaw said a $1 million facility grant, a $1 million Federal Economic Development Administration Grant, help from the state and county, and numerous gifts from private donors helped turn "an empty shell of a building" into the simulator. On Friday, he also thanked the Frank and Sue Jones Scholarship Fund, Catawba Valley Medical Center and Frye Regional Medical Center for their help.

"Thank you for being here as we celebrate a national landmark in health care education," Hinshaw said. "Previous leaders knew we would grow, and they planned for the future of the fifth floor of the Dunbar building. They just didn't know what the future would be."

N.C. Rep. Mark Hilton, R-Catawba, and Catawba County Commissioner Chairwoman Kitty Barnes said Hinshaw saw that future.

"We'll provide well-trained workers," Hilton said. "They'll be able to go out all over the state and they'll be drawn all over the country, and they came through this community college in the Catawba Valley."

Barnes said Catawba has always been "a can-do county."

"This simulation hospital provides infinite opportunities you can only otherwise perform in a clinical setting," Barnes said. "You can't program a clinical setting. Students can also now have a do-over.

Truly, this is an investment in our students, this college, this region and the state that will provide us with wonderful health care for years to come."