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New School of Nursing building opens its doors

After nearly a year and a half of construction, the new 59,000-sq. ft. School of Nursing opened its doors this week.

The $18-million school will now host more than 450 students from its three programs: a bachelor of science in nursing, a master of science in nursing and a newly added Ph.D. program in nursing.

The master's program allows students to focus on a specialized area of care such as anesthesiology or pediatrics, and the four-year Ph.D. program requires an original research project.

Dr. Catherine Gilliss, dean of the School of Nursing, hopes the centralized building will serve her main goal of building community.

"We've never had a space where we could all be together," she said.

Although the academic year has just begun, some students have found that this goal is already being realized.

"It's neat being in the same location with master's students," said Susan Pierson, an accelerated bachelor of science student from Chapel Hill. "[We're able] to talk to them about what they do and why they're here."

The focal point of the building is the school's glass-enclosed café, with its towering ceiling and wireless Internet capabilities. It has already become a favorite gathering place of students from all programs--which is exactly what Gilliss hoped it would become.

"It is critical for faculty and students to know one another and to have a place outside of the classroom to talk about ideas or to brainstorm about problems," Gilliss said.

Gilliss said she also hopes the café will attract undergraduates and expose them to the possibilities of a career in nursing. She is working with Dr. Lynn White, assistant dean for pre-major advising, to more actively inform undergraduate students of educational opportunities at the school.

"Duke undergraduates don't understand what a nurse does today," Gilliss said. "People have this stereotypical vision of women in white dresses and hats racing around the hospital doing things."

Duke's program, however, is a far cry from that stereotypical vision.

In addition to resources made available to them in Duke's hospitals, nursing students will also have access to state-of-the-art technologies within the school itself.

The school has wireless capabilities throughout the entire building, a distance-learning room with video conferencing for students taking classes online and two large laboratories where students can practice what they've learned in the classroom in a real hospital environment.

A simulated operating room to train nurse practitioners and anesthesiologists was also planned, but the project ran out of money before it could be built.

"The more technological lab is outfitted with computerized dummies that allow us to program them to help students deal with expected and unexpected turns of events," Gilliss explained.

The lab has more than 10 full-sized mannequins in beds with their own host of medical equipment. It also contains a one-way mirror and video camera set up so students can be tested on their skills-eventually.

"We've been in just to get oriented," Pierson said. "We haven't gotten to use them yet-but we got to touch them."

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