Ellis Medicine opened the doors Monday to its newly christened Belanger School of Nursing, showing off the state-of-the-art facility to alumni and others.
Among those taking a look was Rotterdam resident Joan Dorazio, a 1965 graduate of the school.
Speaking in a room housing a high-tech, computer-operated mannequin that appears to breathe, have a pulse and even blink, Dorazio looked past that to the heart of the school.
“I think it’s amazing,” the now-retired nurse said, “but a lot of it is the same. Certainly they’ve made a lot of progress in how they do it, but the basic things seem to be the same. That’s taking care of the patients.”
Taking care of patients is the ultimate goal for the school, which will reopen in its new location with freshman orientation Wednesday.
Ellis Medicine moved the school from Erie Boulevard to a building next to its McClellan Street campus, a move that traced its roots back to a $2.3 million donation from the Belanger family 40 years ago.
The new school, renamed for the Belanger family, is to provide a nursing education to nearly 150 students at any one time. The program is five semesters long. Nursing classes will be at the 650 McClellan St. location; the non-nursing courses will be held at Schenectady County Community College.
Among those speaking at the event was Dr. Marilyn Stapleton, director of the school. Stapleton noted that the incoming freshman class will be touring the facility itself Wednesday as part of orientation, with a total of 143 students attending classes there this fall.
What they’ll see is a completely revamped facility, with classrooms and training rooms.
“It really was the vision and hard work of many, many people,” Stapleton said, “including faculty, staff and many others.”
There were also thanks to the Belanger family.
It was money left to the school in the late 1960s, in the wills of longtime Ellis trustee John Belanger and his wife, Anna, that ultimately led to the new school named for them.
That happened after Belanger niece Norma Cummings Lyons questioned in court how the donations were used, alleging it wasn’t used as the Belangers intended. The state Attorney General’s office then stepped in and negotiated a settlement that resulted in the new location, new name and a new fund to benefit the nursing home.
On Monday, Lyons, a retired music teacher, just called the day “thrilling.”
“I feel very fortunate,” Lyons said. “This is a very special day. I’ll always remember this day.”
Lyons’ mother, Lurline Belanger Cummings, John’s sister, was a nurse.
On the tour of the facility, Patty Wilkins answered questions in a room housing mannequins and hospital beds.
The mannequins, she explained to a reporter, each show different scenarios nurses encounter, from bathing a patient to intensive care.
They can even show nurses how to deal with a vomiting patient. “That’s always fun with the students,” Wilkins said of that feature.
As far as the simulations go, Wilkins said they help prospective nurses prepare.
“It’s very important,” Wilkins said, “because, if you think about a student never having given a person a bath, that’s very basic. They’re afraid, they don’t know how to interact with people.”
In another simulation room was a state-of-the-art mannequin that can simulate everything from blinking to different pulse rates, all controlled by a computer.
Cameras in that room, and the other one, allow students to essentially look at the tape, and review their own performance and those of others.
Dorazio, who served four decades as a nurse, called all that stuff “very helpful.”
But, from her time as a nurse, her advice for those entering the field is: “You have to watch the patient. That’s the same.”