Des Moines University is partnering with local schools, fellow higher education institutions and local government to expand health care training opportunities with a new program housed at the university’s former facilities.
The regional simulation center, located at Des Moines University’s former campus at 3200 Grand Ave., Des Moines, will house medical equipment, technology and training areas for partner schools and colleges to conduct classes and other instruction for students hoping to enter a health care career.
Des Moines University President Angela Franklin said simulation training, in which students work with tools like mannequins to learn medical skills before they start working with humans, is a hallmark of health care teaching. She said creating this new center will open doors to many young people hoping to start their path in the health care field.
Des Moines Area Community College, Mercy College of Health Sciences and Des Moines Public Schools will collaborate with the university to design the center and tailor its offerings to various programs’ needs, Franklin said.
“Ultimately, this is about benefiting the training of students, those future health professionals, so we see this as a part of DMU’S mission and vision of being a community servant, to go out and extend an opportunity to help build the pipeline,” Franklin said. “We ultimately all will benefit from those young minds, those individuals here in the metropolitan area, in the surrounding communities, including our rural communities, (having) an opportunity for a place where those students go for training.”
Ryan Hall, the 90,000 square-foot building that will house the new center, also served as the simulation training area before Des Moines University moved to a new location in West Des Moines. The new university campus project was announced in 2019 and students attended classes there for the first time this summer.
The Polk County Board of Supervisors is contributing $5 million to the project, which Franklin said officials hope to launch within a year. Partners on the project will conduct a needs assessment then move to designing the space to accommodate various trainings and instruction across a variety of careers.
“There are more than nurses and doctors,” DMACC Dean of Health & Public Services Jeanie McCarville-Kerber said. “There are (surgical) techs, respiratory therapists, CNAs, and a variety of other health care professionals that are much needed in the Polk County area and across the state of Iowa.”
In addition to crafting the center together, project partners will also create shared strategies for recruiting and retaining students, and reaching those who live outside the metro area. Part of recruitment will come from districts like Des Moines Public Schools, where Superintendent Ian Roberts said about 130 students are on a waitlist for the district’s health science programs.
Mercy College of Health Sciences President Adreain Henry said looking at health care clinics’ staffing and wait times, it’s clear there is a health care worker shortage in the state. Creating and working together on new ideas that allow for expanded access to training will help fill this gap and set students on the path to success.
“If we’re going to solve our challenges, our challenges today, we have to do it together and we have to do it collaboratively,” Henry said. “And so we are thrilled for this opportunity to put our strengths and our energies together to come up with something that will truly serve our community.”