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Oklahoma City University plans new nursing simulation center

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Dean Lois L. Salmeron shows some of the outdated nursing simulation models at the OCU School of Nursing, Monday, June 26, 2017. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Dean Lois L. Salmeron shows some of the outdated nursing simulation models at the OCU School of Nursing, Monday, June 26, 2017.

As Lois Salmeron walked through Oklahoma City University’s original nursing school building, which is undergoing an extensive remodel with its interior walls stripped down to the studs, she spoke about its future and the role it will play in delivering highly skilled nurses to the state.

While health industry groups like the National League of Nursing have endorsed simulations as a teaching methodology for the last decade, local health educators like Salmeron see it as a response to help the state’s pressing nursing workforce shortage.

Scheduled for completion in August, the $1.1 million simulation center is where nursing students will develop necessary skills in a setting similar to an open hospital patient ward. As she stood in what will become an observation station between two patient rooms, Salmeron, dean of OCU’s Kramer School of Nursing, said students will interact with highly sophisticated, computerized mannequins inside the patient rooms and practice realistic care like giving injections, dressing wounds and checking vital signs. Professors will watch from the computerized control rooms with one-way mirrors, giving instructions and operating the mannequins.

It’s hands-on training and experience aspiring nurses need, said Salmeron, who said students can be pushed to the side when patients enter dire situations at the clinic where they accrue practice hours.

“You can’t make decisions about taking care of people unless you can do it,” said Salmeron. “This is critical. We can control the experience and give the students the experiences they want.”

Experience gap

The arrival of a simulation center on the OCU campus comes nearly a year after the state’s nursing board agreed to a law change allowing nursing students to receive up to 30 percent of their clinical practice hours in a structured, faculty-led simulation center.

In 2012, University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers gave Oklahoma a C grade in its United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast. They predicted Oklahoma would meet the criteria for a D grade by 2030.

Oklahoma is home to a number of nursing schools, but a swelling demand in patients is only part of the problem creating the workforce shortage. The state’s current nurses are aging and nearing retirement. There is an experience gap when a retiring nurse with 30-40 years experience is replaced with an individual who has limited practical experience from clinical hours alone.

Enhancing educational opportunities is one way to address the state’s nursing challenges, said Oklahoma Hospital Association president Craig Jones.

“Oklahoma hospitals are continually challenged by a shortage of trained nurses, and the needs will continue to grow as our population ages and create a greater need for management of chronic conditions,” Jones said in a June 1 media statement. “It is imperative to expand training opportunities for nurses in Oklahoma and to use innovative approaches and cutting-edge training tools to prepare them for real-world situations.”

Simulations succeed where clinical practice fails. While students often shadow professionals and perform patient care, there are times when they can only observe. In a simulation, students make real-time clinical decisions in a rich learning environment that poses no risk to patients, Salmeron said.

Growing program

Since the millennium, OCU’s nursing program, which traces its roots back to the 1980s when it teamed up with the now-defunct St. Anthony School of Nursing, has expanded its enrollment numbers and pathways to a nursing degree. In addition to offering a baccalaureate nursing degree, the program provides learning opportunities in master and doctoral degree programs. Currently, about 500 students are enrolled in the various programs.

When the center opens this fall, many students will arrive with past experience in simulations. OCU’s main nursing school building is home to two simulation labs where students check temperature and blood pressure and assist in obstetrics, among many other skills tasks, on mannequins.

“Each course that has a clinical component, which is all except two, require simulation,” Salmeron said. “With more than 300 baccalaureate students, our simulation labs are going all the time. We don’t have the room, which is why we are converting the building over there.”

The new simulation center, funded by private donations, will house multiple hospital-bed skill stations and a residential setting, where students can practice home nursing care in a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The center will be used by a multidisciplinary group of nursing students as well as those in the baccalaureate program.

During simulations, nurses will interact with the mannequins, which simulate heart tones and other vital cues that provide students with real-life experience. Some mannequins can cry, bleed and even die, Salmeron said.

After simulations are run, students and professors meet in one of the debriefing rooms, where they review their recent performance.

When asked if the center will attract more nursing students from across the nation, Salmeron said, “It certainly will help, although we have high enrollment already. Really, it helps us deliver the curriculum in critical areas that students can only watch in hospitals. We will be able to create those simulations right here. Students will think quickly and do all the things nurses are expected to do.”

Print headline: Critical training, Hoping to boost numbers of highly skilled nurses in the state, OCU works to expand enrollment and experience with its simulation center.

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