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The high-tech Betty Irene Moore Hall is the new home for UC Davis’ nationally ranked nursing school — and a living symbol of innovative, interprofessional health education across UC Davis Health.

When leaders, faculty, staff and students of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis packed up and moved into their new home on UC Davis Health’s campus in Sacramento last fall, it signaled more than a simple change of address.

The transition to Betty Irene Moore Hall also marked a significant milestone in the life of the fast-growing school — and a physical manifestation of the innovative redesign of education constantly underway at the School of Nursing and across the university’s academic health system.

“This facility will serve as a beacon, and illustrate our transformative culture in a very tangible way,” Heather M. Young, associate vice chancellor for nursing at UC Davis Health and founding dean of the School of Nursing, told the crowd of more than 800 people who gathered at a grand opening event for the facility in October. “Betty Irene Moore Hall is an opportunity to nurture our curriculum, fulfill our mission, and prepare our students to become leaders who shape health care policy and improve care in our community for generations to come.”

Young and other leaders from UC Davis Health, UC Davis and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation hosted the ribbon-cutting and open house for the facility, which serves as the nursing school’s new home and as a center of interprofessional health sciences education for students in nursing, medicine, public health, informatics and other fields.

The 70,000-square-foot structure features a variety of innovative learning environments designed to engage students, actively involve faculty members, and create spaces for collaboration across health disciplines. Features such as writeable walls in small areas and propeller-shaped tables in larger learning studios encourage teamwork and active instruction. Commons areas provide capacity for community events and guest lectures.

The site sits across a grassy plaza from the existing UC Davis Health Education Building and the Center for Health and Technology, both opened within the last decade or so. Other recently improved areas of the campus, such as UC Davis Medical Center’s surgery and emergency services pavilion area and the expanded UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, are a short walk away.

“As you look around the area we are in today, particularly for people who have not been here in a while, you can see the transformation of this area of Sacramento to a vibrant health sciences campus,” Thomas S. Nesbitt, interim vice chancellor for human health sciences at UC Davis, told the grand opening crowd. “Today we celebrate a key milestone in the realization of our vision of interprofessional education as a key to transforming health care, and improving health for everyone.”

“We are on a mission to let Sacramento, the region and the nation know that UC Davis Health is home to expert clinical care, innovative research and unparalleled education.”

A new way to engage students

The layout of Betty Irene Moore Hall promotes a different type of conversation, in which innovative teaching and technology foster greater communication. In particular, the emphasis on interactive learning is designed to enable graduates to quickly call to mind information during stressful circumstances later.

“Actively engaged students are more likely to recall what they learned later within a variety of situations and contexts, increasing their ability to improve care,” said Theresa Harvath, the School of Nursing’s executive associate dean.

Gone are the traditional lobby and long, door-lined hallways separating classrooms. Instead, three learning studios — 175-, 125- and 60-seat rooms — emphasize group learning and creative use of multimedia tools, through clusters of propeller-shaped tables equipped with their own A/V screen systems. The layout of these “active learning suites” better empowers professors to move around the room and engage with students, as opposed to orating from a lectern, and also gives students more ability and confidence to engage with the instructor and each other.

“Rather than being packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a lecture hall, this open environment sets everyone at ease,” said Justin Palmer, a second-year physician assistant student. “It facilitates ease of discussion during class.”

Students also benefit from simulation-based environments that allow them to experience clinical-care situations in real time, without risking safety. The facility features integrated labs where individual care scenarios play out on one side and, on the other, debriefing rooms provide a setting to discuss bedside decisions and reflect on choices made.

“We want our students to watch care being practiced, administer care themselves, and then be able to teach another team member how to care for a person seeking treatment,” said Elizabeth Rice, the School of Nursing’s associate dean for clinical education and practice. “This philosophy is ideal for students to retain their knowledge at a very advanced level.”

The simulation suites provide opportunities for hands-on practice within a wide variety of clinical settings, such as an eight-bed inpatient hospital ward, a 15-room primary care clinic, and task and anatomy skill labs. A particularly unique simulation experience — a fully furnished and operational one-bedroom apartment — enables students to practice caring for people in their homes.

“We expect our health care students to become leaders in the profession — innovating, working directly with their patients, working with each other, and really moving the profession forward in a space where health care is performed as much at home as it is in the hospital,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May told the crowd.