Before graduating from the University of Central Arkansas, many students in the School of Nursing will have witnessed a birth, checked vital signs on newborns and practiced other clinical skills — on manikins, that is.
Supported by a $500,000 gift from the Nabholz Charitable Foundation — the philanthropic arm of construction company Nabholz Corp. — the university opened the new Nabholz Center for Healthcare Simulation and unveiled upgrades to its existing skills lab wing in the Doyne Health Sciences Building in August 2016. Other support of this project included the Blankenship family gift of $215,500, Sen. Jason Rapert’s grant of $100,000 given through the General Improvement Fund, Conway Regional Health System and many others.
The center and skills lab include rooms designed to simulate clinical settings and strengthen communication, teamwork, critical thinking and ethical skills among students. During a simulation, up to about four students enter a simulation room while others observe from an audio-visual-equipped debriefing room.
Students may use simulation manikins — many of which can simulate breathing, heart sounds and convulsions — to observe births, check vital signs, practice bathing and more. Manikins are operated from a separate control room.
“It really gets them to think and to be able to apply what they already know. They walk away realizing they knew more than what they thought,” said Jacob Baker, ’04, ’07, simulation center manager and clinical instructor. “We expect them to make mistakes, but they make them here. They won’t make them out in the real world, in the clinical setting, which is what we want.”
Nearly 300 students and faculty members in the college experienced a simulation in the center during the fall 2018 semester. The program even once had 45 students experience simulation scenarios in one day.
“Without the technology, it wouldn’t have been as effective or efficient to do that,” Baker said. “We had two rooms going at the same time, and we were able to take care of it all for them. Technology plays a huge role.”
With the center’s technology, simulations can even be taken on the road. A portable sim-view allows simulations in the center to be shown live in other areas on campus, such as the Student Center.
Senior Maria Shipp has experienced simulations on campus since her first year of nursing school. She prefers obstetrics simulations, as that is the field she would like to enter.
“There are some manikins where you can listen, and they’re actually breathing and actually have a heartbeat, so that’s very beneficial because you can listen to the different things,” she said. “You can change the settings. So based off that interpretation, you can change how you’re going to care for that patient.”
The simulation space also better allows for interprofessional education trainings to take place, which means students across various disciplines — such as psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and nutrition — can work together during a specific simulation scenario.
“It’s basically putting into perspective: It’s not just the nurse,” Shipp said. “It’s other fields that you need to collaborate with and work with in order to make sure your patient gets the full benefits and care for them. It’s not just us; it’s others.”
Baker said the effect medical professionals have on patients is tremendous and that patients, in turn, impact clinical staff, too. The existence of the simulation space, he said, raises the students’ comfort level toward working in clinical settings.
“I love what I do. The faculty here has a passion for these students that, I believe, is unmatched,” he said. “We want to see the students succeed, and we want to see them get through and be successful.”