A look inside Harford Community College's new Darlington Hall, which will be the home for the nursing and allied health programs on campus (David Anderson/Aegis video)
Late Monday morning, first-year nursing students Carey Wainwright and Peggy Caloggero were huddled together in a study room of Darlington Hall at Harford Community College. Darlington Hall is the new home of HCC's nursing program which has long been one of the school's signature programs.
"This building is perfect," Caloggero said. "It's beautiful."
Caloggero, 44, of Forest Hill, and Wainwright, 44, of Aberdeen, were in a study room featuring the latest technology, including a projector and one wall that students can write on with a dry-erase marker.
The third floor of Darlington, the home of all HCC nursing and allied health programs and the newest classroom building on the Bel Air campus, includes a number of similar study rooms and an open common area where students can work and see the campus through massive windows.
The three-story, 51,000-square-foot Darlington Hall has been open since January for the college's spring 2015 semester, and a grand opening is scheduled for today (Friday) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
College leaders wanted a single space for all nursing and allied health programs, which were previously spread throughout campus in different buildings.
Steve Garey, HCC's associate vice president for campus operations, said it took 17 months – from June 2013 to November 2014 – to build the facility at a cost of $15.1 million.
Garey, who oversaw the construction process, said Darlington Hall includes nine classrooms, nine labs, 34 offices, a 2,000-square-foot multipurpose room that can be subdivided into smaller rooms, two outdoor classrooms, group study rooms and "smart classroom technology."
He said some of the technology includes projectors, video and audio equipment to record, store and play-back training sessions, an ambulance simulator and hospital training suites with life-like mannequins.
Students can take credit courses for degrees in health care fields such as nursing, or continuing education courses.
Continuing education courses are available for students to improve their professional skills or obtain a certification in a variety of health care and human services fields such as medical administrative assistant, billing and coding specialist, EKG technician, paramedic, pharmacy technician and veterinary assistant.
Darlington Hall has communal areas throughout the building where students from the various disciplines can interact and hear the activity in nearby classrooms, which exposes them to the range of nursing and other health care fields.
"That's what's so beautiful, being in the same building, sharing the same educators and the same space," Annette Haggray, HCC's vice president for academic affairs, said.
Haggray, along with Laura Cianelli Preston, HCC's dean of nursing and allied health professions, and Zoann Parker, associate vice president for continuing education and training, gave an Aegis reporter and photographer a tour Monday ahead of the grand opening.
Preston said about 250 nursing and 140 medical assisting students are taking classes in Darlington on the credit side. Parker said there are 700 to 800 continuing education students in the building, too.
"That's everything from CPR to veterinary assisting," Parker said.
She said students can also pursue internships with medical, dental and veterinary offices in Harford County, as well as local hospitals.
"They get hands-on professional experience here in this county," Parker said.
Both women said they enjoy the study areas of Darlington Hall, and take advantage of being able to write on the walls.
They also noted they have a quiet area to get work done that is away from the distractions at home.
"You just leave everything there, and you're able to get so much more done here," Wainwright said.
Preston noted the third-floor study areas are well used by groups of students during the week, and many even come in on Saturdays.
"Day and night, these are pretty much used all the time," she said.
The building is even a draw for non-medical and nursing students who just want a quiet place to study.
Aaron Hill, 18, of Abingdon, is a first-year general studies student. He was sitting at a table Monday, wearing ear buds plugged into a smartphone while he took notes.
"I just like coming here, because it's quiet and really nice," he said.
Hill said he would study in the campus library before, but the library is not always quiet.
"It's kind of hard finding places to study," he said.
Patrick Campbell, coordinator of EMS programs and paramedic program specialist, showed a reporter around the ambulance simulator housed on the first floor.
He said the EMS continuing education programs have been at HCC since 2009, and classes were previously held in Joppa Hall. Hands-on ambulance training sessions were held in a reserve Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company ambulance.
The large white simulator box is designed to resemble the rear of an ambulance. It is equipped on the outside with flashing lights and with all manner of medical supplies, lifesaving equipment and a gurney on the inside.
Training sessions in the simulator are recorded on audio and video, and students also visit University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air for additional training.
"It's in a controlled environment," Campbell said of the simulator. "We can do this every night of the week. We can record the simulations, so we can play it back for the students to see how they did."
Instructors can also record and play back nursing students' interactions in simulation suites, where they work with life-like mannequins in hospital beds that can be programmed to move and make noise like real patients.
"The learning occurs when you talk about, 'What did you do and why did you do it?' " Preston said.
The adult, child and infant mannequins lie in rows of hospital beds decked out with sensors and medical supplies found in a typical hospital room.
"There are probably 20 skills in nursing that [students] have to be proficient in," she said.
Another simulation lab is set up for IV training, in which students work with fake disembodied arms.