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CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative to Break Ground on $2.9 Million State-of-the-Art Nursing Training Facility

The revamped 5,000-square-foot renovated building will include three different teaching environments — a home-like setting, a clinical setting, and a simulation lab with three high-definition manikins.

DURANGO— Learning to provide high-quality healthcare — whether in a sterile hospital setting, in a home without running water or via telehealth — takes lots of practice. 

Students with the CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative will soon have a chance to get experience in all these settings as the College breaks ground on a $2.9 million, 5,000-square-foot renovation project that will bring technologically advanced clinical training to campus.  

As the most significant nursing training space in the Rocky Mountain region, CU Nursing is bringing its expertise to Durango to help build a state-of-the-art training and education center that enhances the educational experience students receive. Similar to the facilities CU Nursing has built on the Anschutz Medical Campus and its satellite operation at Legacy, Fort Lewis College’s healthcare training facility will feature a high-fidelity manikin lab, an outpatient office, a home-like setting, and a clinical education area where students can practice clinical skills and telehealth.  

“We’re so excited to see progress. The groundbreaking brings us one step closer to delivering an exceptional healthcare educational experience for the students at Fort Lewis College and the southwestern part of the state,” said CU College of Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAANP.

“For communities to thrive, it’s imperative to have the workforce to take care of us when we’re sick and help us to be healthier in the future,” said FLC President Tom Stritikus. “This renovated facility for our Nursing Collaborative program brings top-notch training technology to the Four Corners region to help train the future nurses that will serve our communities for years to come.” 

In 2022, Fort Lewis College and the University of Colorado College of Nursing at Anschutz Medical Campus announced the “CU Nursing Fort Lewis College Collaborative.” The program seeks to provide a four-year nursing undergraduate degree combining the strengths of the state’s flagship medical institute of higher education and FLC’s expertise in rural and Indigenous education 

After completing one year (or 30 credits) of general courses, FLC pre-nursing students and recent FLC alums can apply to the CU Nursing program, which will be offered by CU faculty on the FLC campus in Durango.  

The design of the new facilities at FLC has been a collaborative process between FLC and CU Nursing. Assistant Dean of Clinical Simulation at CU Nursing, Fara Bowler, DNP, has played a valuable role throughout the design process for Skyhawk renovation. Having been involved in several simulation facility construction projects, she was able to bring expert knowledge and vision to support the project team. In the spring of 2022, CU Nursing hosted the FLC project and facility managers at Anschutz Medical Campus to see the complexities of healthcare simulation first-hand.

“We are excited to extend the simulation curriculum to the Durango area,” Bowler said. FLC will be under the umbrella of simulation operations for CU Nursing. 

Maggie LaRose, director of Nursing at FLC, said the new facilities will be ready when the first nursing cohort starts in June 2025. It will provide students with many opportunities to learn in different environments, including office space for advisors, a classroom for students, and simulation labs.  

“It will be where most of the nursing activities happen on campus,” she said. “The hope is that as we develop more healthcare programs, we will be able to use it for any of their lab's needs.” 

The simulation lab will have three high-fidelity manikins, including a pediatric patient, an adult, and a pregnant manikin that can deliver a baby. Students would start practicing with less advanced manikins before progressing to high-fidelity manikins. 

“High-fidelity means they’re very human-like. They can perform the same functions that a human body does,” she said.   

The manikins can be programmed to go through different health scenarios —a heart attack, an infection, a delivery— to which the students react as if it were a real-life scenario. After working on a patient, students get to watch a video of their work and review what they did well and what needs improvement, she said. 

“Much learning happens through failure. In the sim lab, students can learn, practice, and fail in a safe environment,” LaRose said. “The goal is that students learn in an atmosphere where the patient is talking to them, they have distractions, and they get to work in that complex environment before they progress into a clinical environment, so by the time they're working with patients they’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice in a safe environment.” 

The upgraded facilities will solidify the College’s healthcare quad, including the $33 million, 42,000-square-foot Schlessman Hall, home of FLC’s Health Sciences programs, and the Common Spirit Performance Center, said Melissa Mount, vice president of Advancement at FLC and CEO of the FLC Foundation. 

“One of the most exciting aspects of this project is that it was built by our community through philanthropy and community partnerships,” she said. 

The project received $1.3 million from the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations and is also funded through the Anschutz Foundation, the Colorado Health Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation, and numerous individual donors.


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