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Sense of Place

School of Nursing at Viterbo University

University Business, May 2012

With more BSN graduates than any other private college in Wisconsin, Viterbo University’s nursing school enjoyed an excellent reputation—but it operated out of a small, outdated facility. The new School of Nursing, which opened this past fall, is twice the size and technology-rich. The goal, explains President Richard Artman, is 25 percent growth over the next five years and accreditation for a doctor of nursing practice program, currently in development.

  • Problem: The original facility was built in 1954 as an elementary school. Despite renovations, it had limitations. With a Mayo Clinic hospital across the street from campus and another large hospital a few miles away, growing the program to meet the need for nurses in the community made sense.
  • Solution: The challenge resonated with donors, who fully funded the facility, which was finished on time and under budget, and built to LEED Silver standards. Its nearly 69,000 square feet include four simulation labs (for critical care, medical/surgical care, maternal/newborn care, and child health care), three lecture halls, 11 multipurpose classrooms, a computer testing lab, a community health lab, four seminar rooms, and gathering spaces to promote faculty/student interaction. A large dietetics lab allowed that program to move to the building. 

In one of the four high-tech  simulation labs, nursing students gain experience in both maternal  and newborn care, making them more prepared for clinicals.The simulation labs, Artman notes, complement the clinical experience and allow students’ time in the hospital to be more focused on learning the face-to-face aspects of the job. Those labs are his favorite place in the facility. “People watch these mannequins come in, talk, bleed. What it does for our students is give them so much experience,” he says, adding that the healing garden, meditation room, and lounge with fireplace are other special spots.

And thanks to a separate restrictive gift for public art in the school—works that feature the caring and healing of people of all ages—he says the whole facility has “a sense of peacefulness, healing, and quiet.” The new school and its programs, he adds, are “transformational. It’s challenging for the faculty, because they’re going to teach differently now, having the lab integrated into the classroom.”

  • Cost: $15 million
  • Architect: HGA Architecture, Minneapolis