Beside the little pink medication cart, the new machine stands tall, sleek and silver. It looks like the future, which it is.
Nursing and pharmacology students at Dakota County Technical College formerly practiced dispensing medicine solely from the little cart, which opens with your average key. Now, they press their thumbprint against the screen of the Pyxis MedStation 4000 and select a patient. A drawer of pills pops open.
This smart dispenser is exactly the kind of upgrade the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system envisions with its two-year budget request at the Capitol. MnSCU wants $21 million for new equipment and technology for in-demand fields — to be matched by businesses in desperate need of welders, nurses and heavy equipment operators.
Nearly all hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area use the Pyxis MedStation 4000, said Bill Vanstralen, a nursing instructor at Dakota County Technical College. Students need to know how to use it before they hit the clinic floors, he said. “We can’t do a two-hour orientation, killing their clinical time, learning how to do something they can easily learn how to do here.”
And according to Mary Rothchild, senior director for workforce development for the system of state universities and two-year colleges: “It’s a challenge for us to keep up-to-date with the equipment needs in some of these technologies. We need to partner with businesses in multiple ways to do it.”
Yet MnSCU’s budget request is embroiled in legislators’ larger debate about whether higher education dollars ought to be spent on new programs — or on holding down tuition.
Some faculty members also question whether this setup is the best way to solve the so-called “skills gap” between job openings and people looking for work. They argue that the “leveraged equipment program” aims to benefit businesses, not students.