By: Kamloops This Week

When the province announced Friday it would kick in $8 million to help fund a new school of nursing building at Thompson Rivers University, dean Donna Murnaghan brought her own shovel to the proceedings.

“I have the shovel ready to dig the hole if I needed to do it myself,” the dean of nursing joked. “But now I won’t have to.”

As expected, and as reported earlier this week by KTW, the provincial government on Friday morning announced it will contribute $8 million toward a $32.6-million Nursing and Population Health Building tat Thompson Rivers University.

The university will cover the remaining $22.6 million. More than $2 million has been raised privately, including $550,000 from the Stollery Charitable Foundation and an anonymous donor who will be announced at the opening of the building.

The 4,100-square-metre (44,000-square-feet) standalone building will house the bachelor of science in nursing, health-care assistant and the new master of nursing program, as well as other nursing and health programs as they are developed by TRU and approved by government.

The new Nursing and Population Health Building will feature multi-disciplinary simulation labs, classrooms and collaborative study spaces. TRU will be able to implement patient-simulation technology in the new building.

“This building is going to mean more nurses on the ground doing what they do best, and that’s healing people,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone, in whose Kamloops-South Thompson riding TRU lies.

Murnaghan said she’s confident the rest of the money needed will be found while the university finishes its pre-building planning. Construction of the building will begin a year from now, in spring 2018. Completion is anticipated for spring 2020, with students expected to begin studies in fall 2020.

Murnaghan said the building will allow the school of nursing to look at expanding its programs — which receive far more applications than there are available spaces each year — based on the health care needs of the region and province. It will also give students more time and space to practice skills and do hands-on training.

“We have been crammed into corners,” she said. “My faculty is in two different buildings right now and there is no space for our students to do anything other than come into their lab and get out, because there is somebody else behind them.”

The space constraints have also limited the amount of new technology the school can bring in, which requires both room and a higher-tech infrastructure. While faculty looked at renovating its existing spaces to bring in new teaching tools, which include equipment to simulate various medical scenarios students will encounter in the field, Murnaghan said they found the upgrades needed weren’t possible in the space available.

TRU president Alan Shaver said the new building will move the nursing school “to the next level,” and thanked the province for its second funding announcement on the campus this school year — it contributed $7.03 million to a new trades building last September.

“The could have said what more do you want?” Shaver said.

The 2025 B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecasts that 30,000 nurses will be needed throughout B.C. over the next 10 years, due in part to an aging population.

The provincial government said the project will create 102 jobs in construction and 74 jobs in supplier industries.

Health Minister Terry Lake noted health care is one of the largest sectors in the Thompson-Okanagan and the demand for skilled health-care workers is expected to grow.