August 28, 2008

Northwest University answers call for nurses

  • Students at Health and Sciences Center train in real-world exam rooms

    Photo by Juan Hernandez/Mithun
    A two-story curtain wall at south entrance of the Health and Sciences Center ties the plaza to a light-filled study space inside.

    Northwest University’s Health and Sciences Center is home to both its science program and school of nursing. The building opened last year on the school’s campus in Kirkland.

    Located in the academic hub of the campus, the building’s new plaza and fountain help form an important and much-needed central open space for the campus community. The building and plaza were part of an integrated design concept. The integration cemented the goal to form a new heart of campus and create a forecourt to the building.

    The building location works with the steep cross-slope to maximize programmatic efficiency and potential views while enhancing the surrounding landscape.

    An inviting space

    Students, faculty and guests are welcomed through grand, two-story entrances at either end of the linear building, both at grade level.

    The linear layout allowed a grove of evergreen trees to the west to be saved, which now act as sun shading. This essentially nestles the building between existing academic buildings and a grove of trees.

    The southernmost entrance, with its two-story curtain wall, ties the new plaza to an inviting study space with abundant natural light, soft seating and a fireplace.

    The majority of the ground floor houses academic science lab facilities. Lab space is designed to serve the chemistry, physics, biology, geology and ecology curriculums.

    To preserve sightlines for safety and to maximize flexibility, lab bench tops were designed without equipment or ventilation pedestals. This feature also encourages student and faculty collaboration.

    The ecology lab includes a door to the outside for access to a greenhouse and outdoor experiments. An office and administrative suite also is on this floor for science faculty and staff. In addition, the ground floor houses a lecture hall with raked seating that accommodates 120 visitors for classes and campuswide conferences.

    Health and Sciences Center
    Northwest University

    Project manager:
    Lorig Associates


    General contractor:
    Sellen Construction

    Structural engineer:
    DCI Engineers

    Mechanical engineer:

    Civil engineer:
    Taylor Engineering

    Landscape architect:
    Jay Magruder

    The second floor is the primary home for the Mark and Huldah Buntain School of Nursing. The Council on Physician and Nurse Supply, an independent group of health care leaders based at the University of Pennsylvania, has determined that 30,000 additional nurses should be graduated annually to meet the nation’s health care needs. To achieve that goal, U.S. nursing programs would need to increase graduation rates by 30 percent.

    The mission of Northwest University is to provide, in a distinctly evangelical Christian environment, high-quality education to prepare students for service and leadership. A notable impact of the Health and Sciences Center is its contribution to the school’s ability to prepare students for high-demand jobs such as nursing.

    Real-world preparation

    The benefits of the Health and Sciences Center have extended far beyond the state of Washington.

    The center houses these programs with courses in traditional and environmental sciences and a food-production program for developing countries. During their senior year, students of the nursing program complete an intensive clinical, spending a month in places such as Zambia, Taiwan, India, Mexico and remote parts of Alaska.

    This nursing and ministry experience gives students insights on how to provide care across cultures, whether they are serving diverse populations in the U.S. or working in an international context. The international training increases opportunities for the school’s graduates. The International Council of Nurses reports a significant shortage of nurses worldwide, particularly in less-affluent countries.

    With these goals in mind, the nursing skills lab was designed with replicas of real-world exam rooms, ideally suited for learning and practicing nursing skills. An adjacent computer lab is used for further study, projects and simulations.

    Students work their way through this program in cohort groups. To encourage group study, the hallways were designed with breakout areas spread along their length. These areas are furnished with soft seating, whiteboards and power outlets for laptops.

    Lab space has been designed for the specific needs of nursing education. To accommodate the variety of class sizes between nursing and science, classrooms are designed to be flexible in both size and configuration. There is ample office space for full-time and adjunct faculty members.

    The center has enabled Northwest University to offer a degree in biology with three tracks: general, pre-professional and pre-medicine. Judging by interest in the program, this new major looks to have a positive economic impact on the school. In addition, the center has the ancillary benefit of accommodating the growing faculty and staff associated with teaching nursing and science.

    Dana Cook is an associate, and Mike Omura and Ron van der Veen are principals at Mithun. Cook was the project architect for the Heath and Science Center. Omura was the project manager and van der Veen was a designer.

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