Ground broken, construction continues

As director of facilities, Steve Brankle sat down for an interview, he wiped his brow, having just come in from digging up a gas line that was in the way of construction.

This summer John Brown University officially broke ground on the new health sciences building on Aug. 17. When this story was written, construction workers were pouring concrete footings and laying down the plumbing.

“By homecoming, there’s a good chance you’ll see steel columns and beams,” Brankle said.

July 1, 2016 is the official date of completion, but Brankle said he expects to have the building constructed in June.

At that point, the University’s information technology services will start installing the computer equipment and facilities services will install furniture and extensive nursing equipment. Brankle said that he hopes to have the building fully furnished by early August, but the deadline is Aug. 24, when students begin classes.

In May of 2018, the first class of nursing majors will graduate from the University.

“Really, this is something JBU has been thinking about for a very long time,” Ellen Odell, director of nursing, said.

According to Odell, JBU first started making moves to create a nursing program in May of 2011.

In February of 2013, the University hired Odell as a consultant to get prerequisite approval from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to create a nursing program.

By October, three weeks after receiving state approval, the University announced that it had received the $6 million needed for construction through an anonymous donation.

The University hired Odell full time as the director of nursing in January of 2014. That August saw the first class of JBU freshmen to declare pre-nursing as their major.

One of those freshmen was Andrew McChristian, now a sophomore student who plans to become a nurse practitioner.

McChristian lives in Siloam Springs and said he has been keeping up with the construction throughout the summer. He is most excited that nursing majors will finally have a home on campus and that there will be no more “random nursing classes thrown into Walker.”

Fellow sophomore pre-nursing major, Beth Brankle, is the daughter of Steve Brankle. Beth Brankle also said she hopes to become a nurse practitioner.

Beth Brankle explained that she has so far been taking all her required core classes, but by the time the health sciences building opens, she will be taking major specific classes almost exclusively.

Brankle said she is most excited to be able to work with the High Fidelity Simulators. These “dummies” are able to simulate breathing, turn pale, blink, speak, bleed, have a pulse and, in the case of the mother-newborn simulator, even give birth. Students can practice drawing blood, inserting a catheter, performing a checkup, aiding childbirth and performing other job-related tasks enough time that they will not fear making a mistake with an actual patient.

Steve Brankle said that while every project at the University is a personal project for him, this one is extra special.

“My daughter is in the first nursing class,” Brankle said. “It’s going to be fun to build a building, in a sense, for her.”

“This campus is so blessed, and I am blessed to get to be a part of it. It’s been so much fun over the years, getting to see it change,” Brankle said.