A rolling cart stacked with medical equipment blocks the view of the classroom whiteboard inside the respiratory care lab at Tyler Junior College.
In the back of the room, tables, chairs and random medical teaching tools are stored. And along the side of the room, medical machines carrying a tangle of plastic tubes and wires are haphazardly arranged.
“Space is an issue,” Kelcie Granberry, 22, of Tyler, said. “We only have a class of 19 and our schedule is based on size.”
The class splits up for the lab portion because there isn't room for all 19 to work at one time.
“It's crowded with just us 12,” Granberry said adding that space is vital to getting a proper education.
The college called a $25 million bond election to fund the project and, if approved, that money combined with $25 million more in student fees and private donations would make the new building a reality.
“We've got the faculty,” Nursing and Health Sciences Dean Paul Monagan said. “We just need to modernize the resources.”
They play a role in student enrollment numbers, work force preparation, and soon could affect certain program's accreditation.
Lockers line many of the hallways. Some provide storage space for students' books, backpacks and other personal items, but others house program equipment that can't fit in the classrooms.
In the classrooms, desks are packed with two touching side-by-side occasionally. Monagan says the college is teaching more than 40 students in a room designed for about 35.
The respiratory care program is just one example of an allied health program that has to deal with limited space.
In an emergency medical services program, students worked on a mannequin that simulated a patient in a half-size room next to their lecture classroom. Monagan said they use that room (designed to be a storage room) because a stretcher can fit in there. However, sometimes skills labs are being performed in the hallway, he said.
“We're still teaching in space and design that was built for the '60s, but this is 2012,” Monagan said. “What we have typically in modern educational sites would be much more technology and simulation.”
Right now, TJC students have access to some modern technology. Mannequins act as pseudo patients to give students an idea of what to look for and listen for in their treatment.
Some can be programmed to mimic basic vital signs such as pulse, blood pressure and breathing. The mannequins that TJC has now can give some verbal indications of how they are feeling such as making coughing, wheezing or even vomiting sounds.
However, there are more “high-fidelity” mannequins that can actually give birth to mannequin babies or simulate some types of emergency situations.
The value of these devices is that students can experience a simulated clinical environment without actually going to a hospital or doctor's office. Having enough clinical sites for students is always a challenge, so if a student can obtain a certain amount of simulation hours, they can cut down on the number of clinical hours.
“It would make our clinical time more efficient in the hospitals,” Monagan said. “We wouldn't not use the hospitals. We still need patient contact, but the simulation would help us reduce some of that time.”
The facility, where students work on actual patients, dates to the late 1960s and features some of the same furniture and fixtures from the time. With about 1,500 square feet of space, it has 13 chairs. Twenty-four students enter the dental hygiene program each year.
The staples of a modern-day dental office likely would be a computer at every station, digital X-ray machines and adequate counter space. In the TJC clinic, however, none of the work stations have computers or counter space. And two of the four X-ray machines are digital.
Cracks and holes dot the blue floor tiles and permanent stains mark some areas. One computer serves the students in the clinic. A makeshift dark room allows students to process X-rays.
Technology also would come into play with record keeping. More and more medical facilities are transitioning to digital record keeping. However, at TJC, dental hygiene students still document with pen and paper.
Students have to stop periodically as they are probing teeth to write down their findings. Not only is this time consuming, potentially unsanitary, and uncomfortable for the patient, it also is not how things are done in many offices today, students and instructors said.
Carrie Hobbs, dental hygiene department chairwoman, said although TJC can teach its students most of the skills they need to enter the work force, they cannot teach them digital recordkeeping to the fullest extent because there is not a computer at each work station.
And there is not space to add one to each station even if the college wanted to, Ms. Hobbs said.
“For our students, (a new building) would give them an advantage that they don't have right now because of the electronic records,” she said.
BEYOND THE NEEDS
The college routinely has more applicants than space available. Students pass rates on certification exams for several programs exceed state average with some programs reaching 100 percent.
Monagan said the strength of TJC's programs remains the faculty whom he described as wonderfully qualified.
“At the end of all this, if we don't get this bond, I want the taxpayers to know we're still going to do a great job,” Monagan said. “(We'll) do the best job with what we've got.”
However, he and TJC President Dr. Mike Metke have said that they want the college to be able to meet the health care industry needs in the community.
With new health facilities under construction and an aging population, the industry will continue to grow, TJC officials and outside medical professionals have said.
“Somebody's going to fill those jobs as those new facilities are added and we'd like that to be TJC,” Metke said.
Monagan echoed that sentiment.
“We just want TJC to be the center, a major contributor to that growth in the medical community,” Monagan said, “the presence here with a modern design space where we can teach students to be highly competent graduates to go into the workplace.”