Minnesota School Expands High School Medical Education

By Eric Althoff

VIRGINIA, Minn.—General contractor Kraus-Anderson Duluth and designer Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. are finishing up work for the Rock Ridge District’s medical education program.  In conjunction with Orthopaedic Associates, the 7,500-square-foot expansion will allow high school students to learn alongside medical professionals in a clinical setting.

The $2 million educational facility will be home to a working medical clinic, x-ray suite, physical therapy gym as well as an orthopedic medical clinic.  The high school students from Rock Ridge will effectively shadow working doctors and nurses to become more familiar with the various tools and terms of the medical trade—while gaining valuable experience that could come in handy in eventual professional settings.

District Superintendent Noel Schmidt said that the unique partnership between Rock Ridge and Orthopaedic Associates fashions a unique school-to-career pipeline for students in the school’s career and technical education (CTE) program.

“The CTE program will offer educational programming, workshops and job shadowing that will give students a chance to explore healthcare careers, of which there are plenty in the area,” Schmidt said.

In a subsequent statement to School Construction News, Jocy Teske, Cuningham Group Architecture’s senior certified project interior designer, said that the architect needed to focus on adequate patient and staff parking as well as “visibility” of the clinic’s entrance and access to building services shared with the school itself.

“An interior corridor allows building service support without disruption to separate entrances for clinic and physical therapy gym operations,” Teske said.  “The central nurse station with dictation suites is surrounded by exam rooms for ease of access by patient and staff.  Structural support for large X-ray equipment, unique construction for building occupant safety, and mechanical enhancements for occupant comfort were required.”

Morgan Seopa, Kraus-Anderson’s project manager, said that the owner worked with the designers to replicate a similar clinical setting that Orthopaedic Associates already operates in the town of Hibbing.  That way the educational facility would closely mirror an operational healthcare setting.

This is a short-duration project, [so getting] all the materials on site was probably the biggest” issue that Kraus-Anderson faced, Seopa said in a phone interview with School Construction News.  “It was an interior build, so we didn’t have a lot of environmental challenges or anything like that.  It was mostly just getting things going.”

She added that students will be able to walk across a shared parking lot to the CTE building.  This will increase familiarity with the services on offer when it comes time for the students to move into the clinical training side.

“And then also, if they do have an interest in that type of field for a career, they’re able to utilize that space as well,” Seopa said.  “It’s tough to fill these positions, so any positive encouragement is a great thing.”

Construction work at Rock Ridge commenced in January and is due to be complete in September.