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Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014


West Penn Hospital School of Nursing Unveils Major Renovation to 85-year-old Building

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

PITTSBURGH – The West Penn Hospital School of Nursing will unveil the first major renovation in its 85-year history with a series of events May 14-16 that celebrate the school’s rich tradition in nursing education as well as its new cutting-edge learning environment. 

A $6 million renovation funded by more than 600 donors preserved the building’s charm and history while creating a welcoming, modern environment for students. Approximately 5,700 nurses have graduated from the West Penn Hospital School of Nursing since its inception, and it is now enjoying unprecedented popularity as enrollment has more than tripled since 2002.

“As our population continues to age, the education of new health care workers becomes more and more crucial to our society’s well-being,” said Dawn M. Gideon, President and Chief Executive Officer, The West Penn Hospital and Executive Vice President and Chief of Hospital Operations, Allegheny Health System.

“Not only does this renovation provide a beautiful, warm environment for our students, it adds updated classrooms and laboratories and makes room for the continued growth of the STAR Center (Simulation, Training and Academic Research Center at Allegheny Health System), giving our students a state-of-the-art educational experience,” Ms. Gideon said.

The renovations, under the direction of West Penn Hospital Director of Facilities Management Bill Marshall, made the building more energy-efficient, reduced its operating costs and made residential, administrative and classroom spaces more functional and inviting.

Other projects included the addition of a sprinkler system, a handicapped-accessible ramp and an elevator; replacement of all windows and lintels, assorted masonry and terracotta repairs, replacement of the main roof, gutters and downspouts; updates to the building’s electrical power, bathrooms and showers, lighting and cosmetics, renovation of classrooms and auditoriums and replacement of furniture and equipment.

“Our donors made an important investment in quality nursing care,” said B.J. Leber, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Western Pennsylvania Hospital Foundation. “Their generosity captured the theme of our capital campaign, ‘Touching Tomorrow,’ and we give them our heartfelt thanks.’”

The Touching Tomorrow capital campaign was co-chaired by David Burstin, also a Member of the Board of Directors of The Western Pennsylvania Hospital Foundation and of Allegheny Health System, and David McClenahan, Chair, Board of Directors, Allegheny Health System.

The STAR Center will continue to expand in the renovated building. Its medical simulators are anatomically realistic models of patients that provide highly realistic training experiences for nursing students. Simulators are the gold standard of health education today and ultimately enhance patient safety as well as student training.

The STAR Center was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation, as well as grants from The Western Pennsylvania Hospital Foundation, The Western Pennsylvania Hospital Women’s Committee and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The West Penn Hospital School of Nursing opened on Sept. 1, 1892 and graduated its first class of 10 students on Sept. 20, 1894. Before 1873, no organized school of nursing existed in the United States, as nurses were expected to learn by trial and error. Nurses worked a 72-hour week for $35 a month, receiving free housing, meals, laundry and medical care.

Over the years the role of the nurse changed from that of an aide to a critically thinking, proactive member of the healthcare team. The school has also evolved to educate individuals in how to view the patient holistically – mind, body and spirit – rather than just training them to perform tasks.

West Penn Hospital School of Nursing now has a total enrollment of 140 and 63 students are expected to graduate in June. West Penn was the first nursing school west of the Alleghenies to admit men and today averages 15 to 20 percent male students.

“On behalf of the leadership, students and graduates of the West Penn Hospital School of Nursing, I would like to thank our donors for their generous gifts that made this renovation possible,” said Nancy E. Cobb, Director of the School of Nursing. “These improvements make us better able to attract, retain and serve future nursing students.”

Besides nursing students, the building also serves Temple University medical students and nursing students from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. West Penn Hospital’s affiliation with Clarion allows students to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing without leaving Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh-area-based contractors who worked on the renovation include: general contractors MBM Contracting and Jendoco Construction, Paramount Flooring Associates, Norco Painting, All-Pro Painters, and Grunau Co. sprinkler systems.

This week’s events include:

- A donor reception at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 15, with a ribbon-cutting and remarks from Ms. Leber, Sandra Usher, Chair, Board of Directors, The Western Pennsylvania Hospital Foundation; Mr. Burstin; Ms. Gideon; Ms. Cobb and Joseph P. Grunenwald, President, Clarion University.
- A Community Open House from noon to 4 p.m., Friday, May 15.
- “Graduation” ceremonies for students from Pittsburgh Peabody High School who have been attending classes at the STAR Center as part of their training in the school’s Health Careers Academy, from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, May 15.
- A tea for School of Nursing alumni, from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 16. About 150 graduates from the Pittsburgh area and beyond, including alumni from as far back as the Class of 1940, are expected to attend.


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