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New ECC building designed for real world in health care

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Scott Lage, a 2nd year Histotechnology student, works in the Histotechnology Lab in the the new Health and Life Sciences Building at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Ill., on Thursday, March 15, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |

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Updated: April 17, 2012 8:12AM

ELGIN — Bright, spacious, inviting, relaxing — all while echoing a hospital-like environment — were just some of the observations made as Elgin Community College unveiled its new Health and Life Sciences Building to the public.

Opened for students and classes for the January semester, the building had its formal grand opening Thursday afternoon.

Built for $41 million, the new center is part of a $178 million construction bond referendum approved by voters — by a 35-vote margin — in April 2009.

For those working and learning in the new building, having new facilities makes all of the difference for training on real-world techniques.

In their old space, with either outdated or no equipment at all to train on, students had to make do, said nursing instructor Donna Boyce.

“In our trauma suite, we had a cardboard box” that replicated putting a patient on oxygen, she said. “We would tilt the box” to simulate increasing the air flow to the patient.

In the new labor and delivery room class and training room, students can not only practice with real equipment, but classmates also can watch from the other side of a one-way mirror. Students are now working on mannequins, baby- and toddler-sized. Soon, they will have a mannequin that will simulate labor in a pregnant woman.

Scott Boslet, 38, of Crystal Lake is in his first year of the two-year radiography program at ECC. It is a change-of-careers move for Boslet, who worked in the finance industry in Pennsylvania before his wife’s job moved them to Ohio and now to the Fox River Valley. He is doing his clinical study at Sherman Hospital in Elgin, but expects to move to Texas with his wife’s job after he’s completed the program here.

He knew that finding a job in the health care field would be easier with the training he is receiving at ECC, rather than jobs in finance, he said.

Light and space

The new facilities provide students with both natural light and space, Boslet said.

“There is so much more space to work with. In the lab area, when we are using the X-ray machine, it is two times the size that it was,” he said.

Instead of 16 students crowding around one teacher to see what they are supposed to learn, they can now all see what is going on.

“For a learning environment, it is much nicer,” he said.

The new building was designed in many ways to mimic a modern hospital, said architect Clayton Haldeman, with Kluber Architects, which designed the structure.

“The look is intentional,” Haldeman said. “We strove to make it look like, in regards to the finishes and amenities … like the situation they will be working in. There is a feeling of sophistication, that you should be dressed up to come to school.”

With the new building also comes the likelihood of new programs being added at ECC, said Wendy Miller, dean of the department.

ECC is in adding five new programs, including three in diagnostic imaging, spa therapy and sterile processing. About 12,000 square feet on the new building’s third floor have been left unfinished, to allow for future expansions of programs there, Miller said.

“We hope to have those started by the fall of 2014.”

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