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NOVA’s Medical Campus: Bridging Current and Emerging Technologies

The Medical Education Campus at Northern Virginia Community College is the only specialized community college campus in the Commonwealth of Virginia. NOVA’s state-of-the-art Medical Education Campus was built in the summer of 2003 and is home to all of the college’s Nursing and Allied Health Programs—ten in all. There is also a highly-advanced Patient Simulators Lab and a technologically-sophisticated Cadaver Lab, one of only three community colleges in the Commonwealth to offer this hands-on experience to its students, as well as regional first responders and even high school students.

When the beautiful hospital-like facility was coming together in 2003, the MEC was equipped with the latest and best equipment to ensure its graduates emerged with the latest and best skills. But they still needed to bridge current technology with emerging technology. The 32-chair dental clinic, where students treat actual patients under the close supervision of faculty, offered training in both film and digital X-ray technology. While dental practices throughout the region were switching to digital, the process was slow. Many facilities still had the older film X-ray machines. There was no telling where NOVA Dental Hygiene grads would land, and they needed to know both skill sets

In the mid-2000s, NOVA’s Respiratory Therapy program was seeking to outfit its labs with the equipment their graduates would need. Kathy Grilliot, director of the Respiratory Therapy Assistant Program, spoke to local hospitals and asked what kind of equipment they should purchase for the MEC. The hospitals responded that they were switching to the latest ventilators. Things were quickly moving away from the mechanically-run ventilators with knobs and buttons and toward top-of-the-line touch-screen flat panels. Committed to providing training in the latest equipment, NOVA bought the new Maquet Servo-i ventilators that were used in the Inova health system and other facilities in the area.

A few months later, Grilliot began to realize that, while NOVA’s Medical Campus was training its students on the latest equipment, the hospitals hadn’t actually transitioned to the electronic, touch-screen ventilators yet. Inova Fairfax Hospital had over a hundred therapists. They were waiting until all of their RTs were fluent in the new technology before installing the machines on their units. That meant NOVA students would need to learn both old and new equipment.

“We had some mechanical equipment in our labs,” Grilliot said, “but we didn’t have enough for all of our students. We had gone from 17 students in the program to around 22. We needed more of the old ventilators to ensure our students were fully versed in how to use them. You can’t just show it to them. These are ventilators people live and die by. Our students had to be able to work on them until they knew them cold.”

Grilliot approached the provost and told him, she needed to buy some more of the old equipment so NOVA’s medical students would be able to learn yesterday’s technology at the same time as they were learning tomorrow’s technology. Knowing both would give them a competitive edge.

NOVA’s programs are technologically advanced in every way. However, the college is also sensitive to the needs of the region. NOVA’s students in the healthcare fields, and in other in-demand high-tech disciplines are fully versed in old and new technology in order to span the advancements that are made in these critical fields.

Learn more about NOVA’s Medical Education Campus.

By: Kathy Thompson

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.