Beal University is establishing a campus in Wilton for its School of Nursing. At capacity, the campus will host 100-150 students at a time studying to get their associate’s degree and become registered nurses. The campus is located at 75 Allen Street off of Route 2. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

WILTON — Beal University has established a campus in Wilton. The campus will be up and running for its first cohort — consisting of 11 students — that will attend in-person classes in May.

The Wilton campus will be educating students for an associate’s degree in nursing. The campus will prepare students to take the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurses exam (NCLEX) and work as registered nurses, Colleen Koob, the academic dean of the School of Nursing, told the Franklin Journal.

The campus will consist of two classrooms, a full computer lab, a high-fidelity simulation control room and lab, and a fundamental-skills lab.

The high-fidelity simulation lab will have two technological mannequins that simulate human bodily functions such as eating, breathing, giving birth and medical complications such as heart attacks or injuries from a car crash. As a result, students will be able to simulate various medical practices. These practices include administering an IV or delivering babies (with complications).

“You can basically do everything you could possibly do to a human to these high fidelity mannequins,” Koob said. “From a high-fidelity perspective simulation, that’s taking the technology and using the monitoring capabilities … there’s computers, monitors that go with it.”

Colleen Koob, the academic dean for Beal University’s School of Nursing, highlights the high-fidelity simulation lab at the university’s new campus in Wilton. Students will use the the lab and high-fidelity mannequins that simulate bodily functions and medical complications as education to become registered nurses. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

The simulation lab will have two mannequins (and newborn babies) worth $150,000 each, according to Koob.

The fundamental skills lab will have 10 beds where students can learn “basic” and “complex skills” that registered nurses need.

Once it is in full swing, Beal University plans to have 32 students per cohort at the Wilton campus starting every January, May and September. At full capacity, Koob anticipates to have around 100-150 students enrolled at the Wilton campus at a time.

Following the 18-month long program, Beal will be graduating the first cohort of Wilton students in June 2023.

Koob is looking forward to the future collaboration between the university and healthcare providers in the western mountains such as Franklin Community Health Network and Rumford Hospital as clinical sites.

“Beal has always had a truly community interest at heart,” she said.

Koob emphasized that a campus like this is needed in a rural area experiencing a shortage of registered nurses. She is optimistic that the new campus will have a positive impact on Franklin County’s nursing shortage.

“[Franklin Memorial Hospital and Rumford Hospital] are in dire need of nurses and staff,” Koob said. “We already had a nursing shortage prior to this pandemic. And the pandemic has caused a lot of burnout. People are leaving the healthcare workforce in droves.”

With a fast-paced program and an 87 percent licensure pass rate for the NCLEX, Beal wants “to take what we know works … our successes” and bring it to Franklin County, she added.

Beal’s program will also be more accessible for people who want to become registered nurses but don’t want to have a long commute to do so.

Ultimately, Beal and Koob are looking for students who “have the passion to be a nurse” and care for other people.

“A nurse needs to have the all the knowledge that our physician colleagues have, but then they need to know how to care for those patients. So it’s an interesting dichotomy,” Koob said. “You have to have the passion of caring.”

She added that “you need to be able to take care of yourself in order to take care of your patients.”

Koob anticipates the Wilton campus, which is owned by Franklin Memorial Hospital and Maine Health, will be fully built by the end of 2021.

The first cohort will begin their online general education semester in January. The university will be accepting the next cohort of students in May.

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