By Josette Keelor
Exciting changes at Lord Fairfax Community College for the 2014-15 academic year will help the community college compete with other higher education institutions around the country.
The school year, which began Aug. 20, will include twice the previous number of online classes, a new simulation lab for the nursing department and renovations to Fairfax Hall.
According to Polly Stiefvater, a nursing instructor at the school, having a simulation lab on the Middletown campus helps give the school an edge against others like Shenandoah University, which she said will have a simulation lab in its new nursing building.
"It does put us right with them as far as the quality of education that the community college student can get at Lord Fairfax," she said.
The Nursing Simulation Lab offers more space than the school previously had for medical simulations and enables students enrolled in the program to gain experience by working on mannequins programmed to demonstrate lifelike functions and simulate various ailments.
First year students will be able to practice basic nursing skills like taking blood pressure, temperature and respiratory rate.
"[The mannequins] can have different sounds for their lungs, which is extremely important," Stiefvater said. "You can change the patient's heart sounds, for example, change the patient's stomach sounds." Mannequins can also simulate an asthma attack or heart failure, and instructors can speak through mannequins, which can simulate various diseases and react as patients normally would.
The lab gives students a broader variety of training experience than they might be able to access in a typical emergency room. Stiefvater's second year students have been learning how to treat burn victims and disaster patients, specifically tornado victims.
"Simulation is just as valuable as real clinical experiences," Stiefvater said. "It helps to produce quality nursing students."
School administrators expect more than 7,000 students for the fall semester, a number that according to press release matches last year's enrollment. The college also expects more new students in coming weeks, particularly high school students taking shorter-term dual-enrollment classes.
The school's 12-week courses begin Wednesday, and eight-week classes on Oct. 15.
The school, which has campuses in Luray and Warrenton, has doubled its number of online classes during the past year, allowing students the option of earning an associate's degree entirely online in business administration, education, general studies and liberal arts.
A new associate's degree in science includes specializations in engineering and agriculture. Students following this degree path can transfer to an engineering or agricultural science program at a four-year university, the release stated.
At the Middletown campus, the new Student Union building includes a bookstore, fitness center, student lounge, aerobics and yoga studios and a food service court with café open to the community.
The school also plans a $2 million renovation project planned for Fairfax Hall, the oldest building on campus, over the next two years.
Explaining the project as "a bit of a facelift," Communications Specialist Leslie Kelley said it will modernize the building and help it better match other, more recent campus structures.
The building, which hasn't changed much since 1970 when the school was founded, will receive heating and electrical work, new classroom space and a new entrance, according to Kelley.
"It just changes the flavor of the campus by modernizing it," she said.
Contact the school at 540-868-7000 or http://www.lfcc.edu.
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org