Plans for Knox Regional Health Science, Simulation Center underway

Roane State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Knoxville and Covenant Health have announced a partnership that will bring a new health education facility to East Tennessee.

The press release described it as “state-of-the-art”.

On Jan. 31, Gov. Bill Lee presented his proposed budget for 2022-23, which included a request for $67.5 million in federal funding for the Knox Regional Health Science and Simulation Center. The facility will allow instructors to offer full simulations of the work that students will do after graduation in settings similar to clinics and hospitals.

The project was previously approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the governing body for Roane State and TCAT Knoxville, the press release said. It was then recommended by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) for inclusion in the budget application. Roane State is expected to provide at least one $6.5 million campus match. The estimated total dollar amount for the project is US$75 million, including prior financing of US$1 million committed in the 2021-22 fiscal year for the preliminary design phase.

The center is intended to replace Roane State’s current Knox County Center for Health Sciences, a 16,000 square foot campus currently located at 132 Hayfield Road in West Knoxville, and will be the new home of TCAT Knoxville’s health sciences programs. As proposed, the Knox Regional Health Science and Simulation Center would have a total of 130,000 square feet, with a minimum of 11,000 square feet earmarked for the simulation center.

According to the press release, the West Knoxville facility will be built on land donated by Covenant Health. The package is located near Parkwest Medical Center. The land contribution is subject to full budget approval of the project, the press release said.

“Our Knox County campus has served us well, but we are landlocked in this area and our programs have no room for growth,” Roane State President Chris Whaley said in the press release. “Expansion to meet local workforce needs in health science careers is a top priority. With the help of our partners at Covenant Health and several other partners we have hired as part of this effort, we are able to increase the number of students accepted into our nationally accredited programs, add new specialized courses, and provide a unique friendly educational experience that prepared the students for the real world.”

“This is an exciting partnership for Covenant Health. Educating the healthcare professionals of tomorrow is an integral part of caring for our communities, and we are very proud of our joint clinical education initiatives with more than a dozen colleges and universities, including Roane State,” Jim VanderSteeg, President and CEO of Covenant Health in specified in the release. “We are excited to donate the land to the new Health Science and Simulation Center, which will bring innovative resources to a greater number of students and prepare them for successful careers in healthcare.”

Current Roane State programs served by the new simulation center include nursing, EMS, polysomnography and respiratory therapy, with the college planning to add new programs such as cardiovascular technology, health administration, fire science, public health and more. TCAT Knoxville’s health science programs are offered under one roof, including dental assisting, bloodletting and surgical technique.

“I am pleased that TCAT Knoxville is able to partner with Roane State in this project that will benefit the health and allied health students of our two institutions for generations to come,” said Kelli Chaney, President of TCAT Knoxville, in the press release. “Healthcare is critical to the people of East Tennessee, and a steady supply of highly skilled and trained professionals is critical to both patient care and the success of the industry. This project will expand this offer and open up great new career opportunities for students in high-demand healthcare professions. It will also free up space on our campus for other career and technical programs.”

Mike Belbeck, Covenant Health’s executive vice president of operations, agreed.

“This partnership will create a unique synergy between instruction and hands-on experience for students in our region. Students will have the opportunity to attend classes at the new center and participate in clinical training opportunities directly across the street at Parkwest Medical Center and other Covenant Health facilities,” he noted in the press release.

The governor’s budget proposal for 2022-23 is currently under review and consideration by the state legislature. Once fully funded and approved, Roane State, Covenant Health and TCAT Knoxville hope to open the facility to students within three years.

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