Across Belle Isle on Jefferson Avenue is the Oakland University Riverview Institute. Open since 2009, the institute is a 50,000 square foot facility established by the School of Nursing and St. John Health systems.
“The purpose of the Riverview Institute is to train and teach people in Detroit community skill sets and then they … stay in Detroit,” said Barbara Penprase, the executive director of the Riverview Institute.
The facility, located on the second floor of the old St. John hospital, gives nursing students the chance to continue their education while working in the city.
“Many of our programs are targeted at the transitioning under employed or unemployed worker (who is) looking for new career opportunities,” said Jacqueline Glover, director of operations of the Riverview Institute. “We have partnered with agencies like The Detroit Workforce Development Department and Focus HOPE … to serve the immediate community, as well as marketing to all four counties in Southeast Metro Area.”
Penprase has played an active role in making the metro Detroit area more aware of the programs Riverview has to offer.
“We’re hoping as a university that we can attract more people down here,” Penprase said. “I’ve talked to all of the chief nursing officers that are in the Detroit area and I have worked closely with St. Johns and Beaumont to let them know that the hospital is there.”
The institute offers students a chance to take part of the OU’s Certified Nursing Assistant program, Patient Care Technician program, Licensed Practical Nursing program, Basic Life Support courses, and a Vegan Diet for Better Health course.
In addition, they hold classes for an Accelerated Second Degree BSN program with enrollment through main campus.
“The accelerated second degree program is to train nurses to work in the Detroit area and stay there because that is where the need for help is,” Penprase said.
According to Penprase, Riverview plans to launch a program that trains people to become hemodialysis technicians within the next six months.
Some of the equipment from the former hospital is still in place, giving students a chance to work in a hospital-like environment.
“With the generous support of the Community Foundation of Southwest Detroit and others, the second floor has been transformed into a new fabulous urban educational site with some of the most technologically advanced nurse simulation training,” Glover said.
Though there’s an optimistic future the institute has, a lack of funding has prevented them from reaching full potential.
“Those funding revenues have diminished greatly,” Penprase said. “It’s put a stall on a lot of these vocational programs that we were offering as certified certificate programs.”
Despite this, the institute is gaining interest from other departments, according to Glover.
“This past summer we had the two rhetoric courses offered and the School of Education has partnered with us to offer professional development courses,” she said.