CONWAY, Ark. — The University of Central Arkansas has broken ground on its new Integrated Health Sciences Building.

The 80,000-square-foot facility will house the School of Nursing and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. It will also include an inter-professional teaching center to be utilized by the entire College of Health and Behavioral Sciences.

“With inter-professional education and opportunities for that interaction, I think it will improve the health care opportunities in the state of Arkansas,” said Dr. Jimmy Ishee, Dean of the College of Health & Behavioral Sciences.

The new facility will also create space for 50 additional nursing students.

“We have the opportunity to expand our nursing program to admit more students,” Ishee said. “The state of Arkansas will benefit from that expansion because then those students can go practice in the state where there's a shortage of nurses.”

About 90% of UCA's health care graduates stay in Arkansas to practice, according to the university.

Dr. Susan Gatto, School of Nursing Director, said the new facility’s expanded simulation lab will help nursing students leave UCA better prepared to care for patients. It will more than double the space of the current simulation lab and provide students with lifelike training scenarios.

“I think one of our students probably said it best when she said ‘It gives us confidence and makes us feel very confident in our critical thinking and our decision-making so that when we do go in to take care of patients, we start learning the second we step on the floor,’” Gatto said.

The building located at Western Avenue and Bruce Street should be completed by the Fall of 2021.

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