JACKSONVILLE — Sixteen years ago, Ed Goodwin was on the second floor of what was then Regional Medical Center Jacksonville for the birth of his son, Kaden.
Friday afternoon, he celebrated the opening of a facility that will see him teach classes in the very same room.
“He was actually delivered in the C-section room right down the hall,” said Goodwin, the director of the respiratory therapy program at Jacksonville State University. “We actually gutted that, and that’s now my classroom. I have a little special tie to this place.”
The respiratory therapy program celebrated the opening of its new instructional facility inside the former hospital Friday with a ribbon cutting and open house. JSU students, faculty and officials came out to see the new instructional lab, classrooms, lounges and offices lining the second-floor wing that used to be the hospital’s nursery. Hospital beds line one side of the wing, with mock torsos with working lungs occupying some.
“A big part of our program is lab space,” Goodwin said. “We get the same beds, same everything that they’re going to see when they’re at an actual hospital. They’re able to be hands-on and see what they’re going to see when they go to get that job.”
The respiratory therapy program at JSU is still in its infancy, having seen its first graduating class last spring, and Goodwin said the new facility gives the growing program more room to spread out.
“The popularity of the program is continuing to grow,” he said. “We’re excited not only to have the new space but also the ability to grow.”
Anniston native Christopher Carr is part of that first graduating class, one of 22 graduates who all received job offers after completing their coursework, Goodwin said. Carr parlayed his time in the program to a job at Children’s of Alabama hospital in Birmingham before moving back to work at RMC in Anniston.
“What we had was a smaller version of what they have today,” Carr said of the former home of the program, leased space in Brookstone Physician Center next to the former Jacksonville hospital. “The program is small enough to get that one-on-one time with your teachers. It really prepares you for what you’ll see in our field.”
“To be able to have a medical program in an actual hospital does a lot,” Goodwin said. “We’ve been able to show off what we’ve been able to do with this building that was so graciously donated.”
The facility was donated to JSU by RMC’s board of trustees after its closure in June 2018. After the March 19, 2018, tornado that heavily damaged several JSU buildings, including the home of the nursing program, Wallace Hall, the former RMC has allowed many JSU programs to keep running, JSU Provost Christie Shelton said.
“We would have had great difficulty, if not an impossibility, ahead of us in trying to re-establish the nursing arts lab somewhere else with the numbers of students we have,” said Shelton, who is the former dean of JSU’s School of Health Professions and Wellness. “If we had not had this facility at the time we had it, we probably would have had to limit nursing enrollment.”
Aside from nursing classes, the former RMC building also houses some classrooms for the music programs, which are also without a home facility as Mason Hall is rebuilt on campus. On the first floor of the hospital on Friday, music note decals lined the floor towards classrooms while signs urged music students to follow them. The JSU student health center now sits in the back of the old hospital.
“We are thrilled that we have this space that RMC donated to us,” Shelton said.
The respiratory therapy second-floor facility was planned when groups of JSU officials toured the building, thinking of ways to best make use of the space, Shelton said.
“We envisioned an opportunity and moved it forward and here it is coming to fruition,” she said.
“I think it’s good that it's still part of the community,” Goodwin said. “There was a lot of concern when the hospital closed. For us to be able to reuse the space and continue health care programs makes it that much more special.”
For the fledgling program, Goodwin said the new facility would only help to enhance learning for its students as it continues to grow.
“We’re now able to provide some of the latest and greatest of technologies for our students so that they are better prepared when they enter the workforce.”