Columbia University School of Nursing's new, light-filled glass building in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood is a stark contrast to the prewar brick buildings and the converted dormitory that has acted as the school's headquarters for the past 33 years.
The $85 million facility will open for classes this fall with 12 high-tech simulation rooms, allowing nurses to practice in a range of realistic care settings before going out into the field.
"The need and want was for a building that would actually create an iconic identity for the nursing school on the Columbia Medical Center campus, which they don't have now," said Nicholas Garrison, a partner at Manhattan architecture firm FXFOWLE Architects, which partnered with CO Architects in Los Angeles to design the new space.
Construction of the 7-story, 68,000-square-foot facility is on track to be completed by June 8. Transparency and collaboration are at the heart of its design. The building is sheeted in glass so that natural light can make its way into most parts of the school.
"Everything the students will have to do in a clinical setting, they'll have to do here," said Kellie Bryant, executive director of the Simulation Center and assistant professor of nursing at the school. "But here, if they make a mistake, they can learn from it and hopefully won't make that mistake when they're out in real practice."
The mannequin in the simulated operating room where nurse anesthetists will train is the most sophisticated, she said. It can undergo invasive procedures, and if given the right medication, it will fall asleep and its vital signs and heart rate will change. The simulation rooms are separated by one-way mirrors from computerized control rooms where teachers can give instructions and operate the mannequins.
Medical schools are starting to incorporate more simulations into their curricula, but "in terms of size and equipment and everything we have here, I'd say we're definitely ahead of the curve," said Bryant. Nurses will also get to practice with actors known as standardized patients, who feign various illnesses.
The new facility is also designed to keep the school grounded in the community, said Garrison.
The first-floor lobby can host health fairs and other community outreach events, and its clear glass exterior lets neighborhood residents look inside.
The 200-person event space on the top floor features a wraparound terrace garden with a view of the Columbia Medical Center campus to the west and the city beyond.
"Columbia's new nursing facility seeks 'iconic identity'" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.