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Posted on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

University of Michigan set to break ground on $50M School of Nursing Friday

By Amy Biolchini


An architectural rendering by RDG Planning and Design of the University of Michigan's new School of Nursing at Kingsley and Cornwell streets in Ann Arbor. The facility will open to students in 2015.

Courtesy of U-M

The University of Michigan is preparing to break ground on a $50 million School of Nursing Friday in Ann Arbor that officials say will help better train students for jobs in a variety of health care fields.

“The students are incredibly excited,” said U-M School of Nursing Dean Kathleen Potempa. “This is the first time in our 125-year history that we will occupy a building specifically designed for education.”

The 78,000-square-foot facility at Kingsley and Cornwell streets on the north side of Ann Arbor will open in 2015. Construction will eliminate about 125 parking spaces at that location.


The parking lot off of Kingsley Street in Ann Arbor where U-M's new School of Nursing will be built. Groundbreaking is set for Friday.

Courtney Sacco |

The groundbreaking ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Friday will kick off a day-long celebration that includes the Dean's Research Day Fair at U-M's North Campus Research Complex.

Potempa said she projects the School of Nursing’s student population to increase by 20 percent in the first five years after the opening of the new building -- a figure she says is a “conservative” projection.

The new building will be down the street from the existing facility the School of Nursing occupies at 400 N. Ingalls St. Built in 1913, the nursing school has been using the facility since 1977.

“We demand the highest level of scientific knowledge and the judgment to apply it in context,” Potempa said of students at U-M’s School of Nursing. “It will allow us to introduce the very latest tools to enhance that … We just do not have the capacity to introduce those tools now.”

Growth among nursing professions is projected to last through mid-century, Potempa said.


Kathleen Potempa

Courtesy U-M

America’s aging population, increases in patients with chronic illnesses and the expansion of health insurance to individuals under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are all factors that are increasing the demand for trained nursing professionals at all levels, Potempa said.

Those demands have translated into a 26 percent increase in enrollment in the past 10 years at U-M’s nursing school that has stretched it to its limits.

In the fall of 2008, there were 647 undergraduate students admitted to the School of Nursing and in the fall of 2012, that figure was 641. Graduate student enrollment to the School of Nursing has accounted for a significant increase: 198 were admitted in the fall of 2008, compared to 278 in 2012.

Within the past five years, more nurses in Michigan have continued working instead of retiring because of the declining economy, according to the Michigan Center for Nursing.

Those workers are about to begin retiring -- which will mean there will be more room for recent nursing graduates to move into full-time employment, officials say.

Potempa said there’s a growing trend towards nurses pursuing graduate degrees, as well as a market demand for family nurse practitioners and acute care practitioners.

“The demand is huge … we turn away many more students than we can accept,” Potempa said.

Long-term care facilities also have sought to hire registered nurses rather than licensed practice nurses because patients are increasingly sicker than they have before, Carole Stacy, director of the Michigan Center for Nursing, said in a previous interview with

Potempa said the limiting factor for the number of students they can accept in some programs is the number of clinical placements for internships.

“That’s why we’re being conservative with the 20 percent increase (in students),” Potempa said.

Within U-M’s new nursing school, about 13,000 square feet of space on the lower level will be dedicated to simulation lab space for students.

In the 400 N. Ingalls building, the School of Nursing has about 2,500 square feet of simulation lab space. The national average for lab simulation space in a nursing school is 12,000 square feet.

Using virtual technologies, nursing students will be able to practice procedures they're learning to enhance their judgement skills.

The lab space will include computer-based simulations from an intensive care unit experience to patient examinations to help nursing students prepare for their clinical exams.

Disaster situations and staging areas also can be simulated in the lab space to assist students and community members in emergency response training.

Potempa said the school hopes to purchase a virtual human body that mimics internal organs and skeletal components to augment anatomy and physiology classes.

Group work and interactive labs will become a larger part of the curriculum with the added space in the new building.

“We’re not in a place where we cram facts into students’ brains,” Potempa said. “We really focus on synthesis and application. (The new facility) will give us the setting and style of teaching and the electronic-based capacity to get to that level.”


A sign marks off the parking lot for the Friday ground breaking ceremony for U-M's new School of Nursing.

Courtney Sacco |

Potempa said she expects class sizes to increase after the opening of the new building, which will include a tiered-seating lecture hall that seats 200 people.

Group meeting space with computer access also will be a part of the new school’s internal floor plan.

The building on North Ingalls will still be used by the School of Nursing after the opening of the new Kingsley building for faculty offices and some classroom space.

Eventually, the school’s building on North Ingalls will be replaced, Potempa said.

In 2012, the School of Nursing estimated that it would be adding 40 faculty and staff members to its ranks throughout the next 10 years.

Potempa said that figure was a projection based on the growing demand for a spot in the school’s programs.

Potempa said nursing school alumni from all over the country will be attending the groundbreaking ceremony Friday.

“(The alumni) know what it will mean for the next generation of students,” Potempa said.

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Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Widow Wadman

Sat, Apr 6, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

Nice reporting, Ms. Bioclchini.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 5:51 p.m.

Addendum; I left out a few words in my post. I meant to say, .."Most of the faculty cannot actually give patient care, especially the extremely highly technical skilled care.....


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

I was a U of M nursing school graduate with a Bachelors of science in Nursing in 1970. I continued to work at U of M hospitals, mostly in Critical care for over 30 years. I still get cold calls, personal letters, recruiting calls to work as an RN. Somehow, these recruiters know my age and my experience level and STILL want to employ me even though I've been retired for awhile. I have valuable experience. While at U of M, I was assigned to work with scores of nursing students in the clinical setting because most of the faculty actual patient care, or operationalize any of the theory or translate into caring for patients. All the simulational lab space in the world won't work without the mentorship of the nursing staff in any type of setting. It's ironic that we are adding more physical plant to the U of M just as MOOCs are exploding. Just take a peek at U of M's presence on Coursera. I am actually signed up to take a free CPR Course soon on Cousera. I remember back in the sixties, one of the current entrances to the N. Ingalls nursing Building had a very large religious statue as part of the Old St. Joes' Hospital. Also ,there was an actual School of Nursing Building down near the Medical Center when I went to U of M 1966 to 1970. It was subsumed by the Medical School in the 70's and the Nursing School was sent to the outpost on N. Ingalls old St. Joes. I may have some details wrong but many of you out there can set the story straight.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

Certainly no sequestration cuts at the good old U of M!!!!


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

Not true. My office at U of M is awaiting word on possible cuts and others in my department have experienced some sequestration cuts.

Tex Treeder

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

That's good, isn't it? Or are you upset that there were no cuts?

Basic Bob

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

"43 percent of newly licensed registered nurses can't find a job within the first 18 months of graduating" This figure was quoted in a recent story on this website. I don't know what to make of that when schools have tripled their enrollment in the last ten years and are continuing to claim there is a shortage of nurses. A new building would be nice but Is expanding the program really a good idea?


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 9:39 p.m.

Ms. Biolchini, then what ARE the correct figures?

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Basic Bob, that figure that you cited came from a CNN Health article on a study that we aggregated. It was later announced that the findings of the study were inaccurate and that the 43% figure was wrong.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Why is it that so often that a new building is pictured with no mention of the architects who designed the work? Doesn't seem to happen when a new book or work of art is mentioned.

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

I've updated the caption, fortune, to include the architectural firm.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Who is the architect for the new building?


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

.......because they couldn't find a Michigan firm to do the job? That's PURE MICHIGAN....not.

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

RDG Planning and Design, an architecture and landscape design firm with two offices in Iowa and one in Nebraska.

Tex Treeder

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

I worked for a while in the building on North Ingalls. It's old and worn and out of date, but it has a lot of character. I hope it isn't torn down in the end.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

I agree, it's a handsome building and is worth preserving.

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

The School of Nursing will continue to use the North Ingalls building after the construction of the new facility. Dean Kathleen Potempa said the eventual plan is to tear down and rebuild the North Ingalls building, but there's no plan at the moment to do so.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

Sounds like great news. The article is somewhat confusing; it confuses a university school with a building. How much of the $50 million is the building, and how much is operational expenditures for the school?

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Hi Rich, the $50 million is the construction cost for the building itself.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 11:54 a.m.

Lets get rid of all parking in Oz


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

And when build new parking, like at the Eye Center, it's no good, either. I guess you can't win in Oz.


Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

Bad dog!