Forward Thinking: New lab at Ivy Tech Community College designed to prepare students for health care careers


A new lab at Ivy Tech Community College’s Hamilton County campus in Noblesville is preparing students for future careers in the field of health care.

The Ivy Tech campus launched its School of Nursing in January and has drawn students from students across the region, said Denise Thompson, an Ivy Tech nursing instructor who has been in the profession for 25 years. Thompson said the program, which is capped at 20 students, allows individuals to earn an associate degree in nursing within two years.

The lab is equipped with mannequins and other equipment designed to put students in real-world scenarios that allows them to apply what they learn in the classroom. The mannequins, which can be programmed to speak, make noises or have their vital signs adjusted through a simulation room, also gives students an opportunity to practice different situations such as using a catheter or putting in an IV that they might face in a health care setting, Thompson said.

“This is the closest that a student can get to a patient without it being a real patient, so when they’re not in hospital clinicals, this is how they will spend their time. It’s very high-level learning for them,” Thompson said. “They get all this practice, and by the time they go in a patient’s room, they know what they’re doing, and it’s not imagining an arm, they’re actually putting in an IV here.”

The Hamilton County campus also offers coursework for students interested in medical assisting or becoming a certified nursing assistant, and Thompson said the demand for nursing professionals remains high. Indiana has nearly 4,300 openings for nurses each year, with projections of needing an additional 5,000 nurses by 2031, according to the Indiana Hospital Association.

“There’s just openings everywhere, and part of the draw is the flexibility, shifts, the areas,” Thompson said.

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Ivy Tech Community College President Sue Ellspermann speaks prior to a Feb. 17 ribbon cutting marking the Hamilton County campus’ new health care lab in Noblesville.

Pendleton resident Ashley Gray is among the students in the nursing program at Ivy Tech’s Hamilton County campus and said she has always wanted to pursue nursing as a career.

“It seemed like a good opportunity, considering how small (the program) is,” Gray said.

Gray, who wants to work as a nurse in either labor and delivery or pediatrics, has enjoyed the nursing program.

“It seems to really connect what we’re learning in class,” she said. “It gives you an opportunity to practice your skills before you actually get out there and do it on a real person, but it’s a lot of the same supplies and equipment in a hospital.”

Lebanon resident Brandie Taylor is in the nursing program with Gray. She is preparing to make a career change after spending 25 years in retail management, she said.

“Nursing has always been a pipeline dream for me, and I started taking classes at the height of the pandemic when my full-time job closed down and (it) really just felt like it was time, so I spent two years doing pre-reqs and things like that,” Taylor said. “I really feel blessed to have the opportunity to be one of the first nursing students in this cohort.”

Taylor has advice for anyone who might be considering a change in careers.

“I had to tell myself that it was never too late, and no matter what your dreams are, that you can always go after them regardless of what you were already doing before,” Taylor said.

Taylor looks forward to the opportunities to work in the health care industry.

“I found that after being at my last job for 17 years that I was working for the wrong reason, so it was a big realization that I was working for a paycheck and not for a purpose,” Taylor said. “Just going into the nursing program and knowing that I’m going to really make a difference and that the paycheck will just be a bonus.”

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Mannequins inside the lab at Ivy Tech Community College’s Hamilton County campus in Noblesville. The mannequins, which can be programmed to speak, make noises or have their vital signs adjusted through a simulation room, helps nursing students by putting them in real-world scenarios to practice what they have learned in the classroom. (Photos by Adam Seif)

Nursing facts

Nursing is the nation’s largest health care professional with more than 4.2 million registered nurses practicing nationwide.

Nursing students comprise more than half of all health professions students.

Nurses comprise the largest single component of hospital staff, are the primary providers of hospital patient care and deliver most of the nation’s long-term care.

Source: American Association of Colleges of Nursing