New facility will transform healthcare worker training

A rendering of Reading Area Community College's Weitz Healthcare Pavilion.

The healthcare worker crisis is a challenge facing almost every community in the United States. Berks County, Pennsylvania, is certainly no exception. As the largest higher educational institution in the county, Reading Area Community College (RACC) is committed to our community to help address the shortage of highly trained healthcare workers in our region.

In July 2023, we began a massive renovation of Weitz Hall, transforming the facility into the new Weitz Healthcare Pavilion — named after former RACC President Anna Weitz. The almost $20 million project will transform the four-story building into a modern, high-tech medical training facility.

When complete, the first floor of the new facility will feature state-of-the-art simulation nursing and respiratory care lab spaces with a central observation room and two debriefing rooms. The second floor will include simulated patient rooms with cardiac monitors, alarms and air supply systems that mimic real-life patient care areas.

It will also be home to our short-term health professions programs, such as the nurses aid program. The third and fourth floors will have redesigned classroom spaces, as well as phlebotomy and dental assistant labs.

When the project is finished in approximately two years, it will house all of RACC’s current 14 healthcare programs in one location. They include registered practical nursing, phlebotomy and a dental assisting to medical insurance and billing programs. Our existing healthcare programs are currently divided throughout several buildings on campus. The new space will provide an exciting new home for existing programs and allow us to expand them.

In addition, RACC will be introducing several new healthcare programs, including sonography, psychiatric and mental health services technician, dental laboratory technicians, healthcare navigator, radiology, medications reconciliation technician, patient advocate specialist and medical informatics. In all, the expansion will increase the number of students RACC can teach in our healthcare programs by approximately 50%.

Transformational project, partnership

One of our largest regional healthcare partners, Reading Hospital, has been a tremendous advocate of the project. Reading Hospital President and CEO Dr. Chuck Barbara said, “If there is anything we have learned in the past four years, it is that healthcare education is crucial in every community. The need for well-trained nurses, technologists and other professionals will always be present to assure a vibrant, growing and prosperous community. The Weitz Healthcare Pavilion project is crucial to ensure that Reading Hospital, and all Berks County healthcare delivery organizations have the necessary supply of compassionate, competent and committed staff to meet our community’s needs.”

We believe the Weitz Healthcare Pavilion will be regarded as a transformational instructional facility that will directly address the healthcare worker shortage by doubling the enrollment of qualified students in our widely regarded healthcare programs.

The campaign will position Reading Area Community College to achieve more for our current and future students, with the results positively impacting the communities we serve.

Want to hear more about this project? Check out season eight, episode three of the Community College Voice podcast.

About the Author

Susan Looney
Dr. Susan Looney is president of Reading Area Community College in Reading, Penn.
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