PCC celebrates grand opening of Teaching and Learning Center

PUEBLO – Pueblo Community College celebrated the grand opening of its Nursing and Allied Health Teaching and Learning Center with employees, students and community members Thursday at St. Mary-Corwin Hospital.

The Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) occupies approximately 60,000 square feet on four floors of the east tower at the hospital. It houses PCC’s medical assistant, nursing, nurse aide, occupational therapy assistant, pharmacy technician, phlebotomy technician, radiologic technology, respiratory therapy and surgical technology programs. The site has a simulation center, learning labs, classrooms, offices and student spaces with plenty of room for expansion.

Thursday’s opening took place in the nursing lab, formerly the St. Mary-Corwin intensive care unit. The individual rooms now serve as hands-on learning areas for students. 

“Our goal at Pueblo Community College is to aggressively contribute to filling the talent pipeline and skills gap,” said PCC President Patty Erjavec. “The Teaching and Learning Center has been designed to be a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to offering the training necessary to prepare much-needed healthcare workers. The additional healthcare professionals graduating from PCC are sure to contribute to greater economic vitality for Pueblo and southern Colorado.”

The idea for the TLC came to life in 2018. St. Mary-Corwin CEO Mike Cafasso contacted Erjavec to discuss how the college might make use of the 450,000 square-foot building to expand its health programs. The hospital centralized its operations in the west tower so the space was available and PCC was a logical fit: The school’s surgical technology program and simulation lab already were on site.

The project was formally announced in February 2019. Despite pandemic-related delays, most programs relocated to the hospital by the beginning of the fall 2022 semester. 

“Teaching in a collaborative, interprofessional environment will not only benefit our students in their learning but the Pueblo community by educating more healthcare workers who are better prepared and who will flourish in the ever-changing healthcare environment,” said Eva Tapia, director of the simulation center. 

PCC’s Human Anatomy Learning Center, once located at the hospital, moved to renovated space on the main campus and now is available to all students. The HALC has two human cadavers, two Anatomage 3-D anatomy tables and Anatomy in Clay models.

More than $14.6 million in public and private donations has been donated for the project itself and related needs. The late Mary Jane Voelker, a steadfast supporter of PCC, contributed more than $7.2 million – $1 million to kick off the project and a bequest of $6.2 million, half of which will fund student scholarships and half that will go toward controlled maintenance expenses for the TLC.

The U.S. Economic Development Agency, El Pomar Foundation, Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority and Board of Pueblo County Commissioners are among the other contributors. 

“This work is a sterling example of strong industry partnerships and how we can transform lives together,” said Joe Garcia, chancellor of the Colorado Community College System. “Thanks to the generous support of Centura and St. Mary’s, students will learn and practice in a real-world healthcare setting. This gives students the skills and confidence to move into high-paying jobs and make an impact on day one.”

According to recent data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the state needs to fill 4,000 registered nursing jobs each year. Healthcare practitioner and technician careers are expected to grow by more than 20% through 2031.

“To meet these demands, we need innovative models that dramatically scale training and learning opportunities,” Garcia said. “The Nursing and Allied Health Teaching and Learning Center will do this and more, making a direct impact in Pueblo and the entire state.” 

Founded in 1933, Pueblo Community College is a premier teaching institution focused on providing academic and service excellence, without discrimination, to help its students acquire the 21st-century skills needed to better their lives. An educational and technological leader, PCC fosters economic development and utilizes strong partnerships in the communities it serves through its Pueblo, Fremont and Southwest campuses.

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