Healthy Choices

UC Davis breaks ground on new $50 million nursing school

An architectural rendering shows the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, a $50 million building that broke ground on Tuesday, Nov. 10, on the UC Davis medical campus in Sacramento.
An architectural rendering shows the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, a $50 million building that broke ground on Tuesday, Nov. 10, on the UC Davis medical campus in Sacramento. Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis

Calling it “a classroom with no walls,” UC Davis officials broke ground this week on a new $50 million nursing school building with state-of-the-art learning spaces.

The 70,000-square-foot building, which will open in fall 2017, will become the primary home of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing on UC Davis’ Sacramento campus.

As California faces possible nursing shortages in the next decade, the new building will allow UC Davis to triple its nursing school enrollment to 450 by 2021 and emphasize its patient-centered, collaborative approach to teaching.

“We’re preparing for the future of interdisciplinary care. … It’s in the DNA to collaborate, not just among the ‘white coats’ but across the entire campus” in fields such as nutrition, sociology, pharmacy, public health, law and biostatistics, said Heather Young, associate vice chancellor for nursing. “Health care is becoming more complex. It’s not just clinical skills but how to lead changes in health care systems.”

The UC Davis expansion comes as the postrecession demand for registered nurses appears to be improving. Last year, more than 68 percent of California hospitals reported that demand for RNs was greater than the available supply, according to an annual survey of nursing employers conducted by the University of California, San Francisco. That was the highest percentage since the annual survey began in 2010.

The building’s layout is designed to bring together medical students, professors and researchers from departments across campus as part of a team-teaching approach for programs such as its pain management clinic and its mobile technology program for cancer care.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” Young said.

Currently, the school has about 150 nursing students enrolled in four graduate programs: physician assistants, nurse practitioners, a master’s degree in nursing leadership and a Ph.D. in health care leadership.

Among those attending the UC Davis ceremonies was Gordon Moore, retired co-founder of tech giant Intel, who flew in from his Hawaii home for the occasion. The new nursing school is named for his wife, Betty Irene Moore. Both in their 80s, the couple oversee a Palo Alto-based philanthropic foundation that gave $100 million to launch the UC Davis nursing school expansion.

Although they didn’t have professional or personal ties to the Davis campus, the Moores chose UC Davis because of “the openness of the leadership and faculty to creating a first-rate, science-based school, which they felt was important to the future of nursing education,” said Harvey Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which funds a variety of science, environmental conservation and patient care projects.

Fineberg said the donation was spurred by a medical mistake when Betty Moore was given an injection of insulin intended for another patient. “Their response, instead of ‘Let’s sue’ was ‘how do we prevent this from happening to anyone else,’ ” Fineberg said. “They came to see this (school) as important in making a lasting impact in the quality and safety of health care.”

The three-story building, designed by the WRNS Studio architecture firm in San Francisco, will have flexible room arrangements that encourage collaboration. Whiteboards on “writable walls” will be placed throughout the building in niches and corners to encourage small-group discussions and studying. The building won’t have a traditional lobby but an open “commons” area with work spaces, research displays and places for students and professors to gather. Larger learning studios will have airplane propeller-shaped tables where students can work together around a central hub of computer monitors.

The building also will feature simulation suites, including a 15-room primary care clinic and a one-bedroom apartment where students can practice how to transition patients from hospital to home. Professors can watch through one-way glass as students, using technology-wired mannequins, go through patient-care simulations, which are videotaped for followup discussion.

“Our vision is that it will be used by all students in the health system, but also be a mecca for nursing education,” such as hosting regional seminars, said UC Davis nursing school spokeswoman Jenny Carrick. “It’s not just for UC Davis, it’s for health care throughout Northern California.”

Claudia Buck: 916-321-1968, @Claudia_Buck