Modeling excellence


Nursing student Lauren Williams holds an infant simulation manikin in the Simulation Center & Clinical Learning Lab. The simulation center includes a Maternal/Child Center, where students practice providing care for mothers and babies from labor and delivery to postpartum care, and a Pediatric Care Suite that has three infant cribs, one child’s bed and four high-fidelity manikins. Other training units are also available to students and faculty.

Community support builds simulation center to educate, train future health care providers

For Stacy Cousins, the sight of the infant having a seizure was dramatic. “The baby was shaking and turning blue,” the senior nursing student said. “It felt like we were right there in the hospital.”

Instead, she and fellow nursing students were learning clinical skills in the School of Nursing’s new, state-of-the-art Simulation Center & Clinical Learning Lab.

In the lab, students work with 13 brand-new high-fidelity simulation manikins, including newborns, babies, children and adults, as well as more than 30 additional manikins that can be used for a variety of clinical learning purposes.

The newest manikins, provided through a grant from Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, can be programmed to simulate normal and problematic health symptoms, such as a mother giving birth, a man having a heart attack and a baby having a seizure. The manikins’ eyes blink, their skin feels similar to human skin, they breathe and they have a pulse on their neck, wrists and legs. They are so lifelike that sometimes it’s easy to forget that they aren’t human.

“We weren’t expecting this to be so realistic. Now I’ll know what to do,” Cousins said, when she begins working with human patients in a hospital setting.

Set up as a hospital and home health setting in the School of Nursing building, the 7,281-square-foot Simulation Center & Clinical Learning Lab provides realistic clinical education for students from the schools of Nursing, Medicine and Health Professions.

Through simulation, nurses and interprofessional teams of students and residents learn to appraise and respond to unique clinical scenarios led by Health Science Center faculty members, and to reflect on whether they did the right thing at the right time, explained Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing.

Dr. Breslin initiated partnerships to build the $3.9 million Simulation Center in 2009. Construction began in 2010 and was completed in spring 2012. The first partnership was initiated with the Economic Development Administration which provided a $1 million grant to fund Phase 1 of the project. As the School of Nursing embarked on Phase 2, a large portal was built through $750,000 in construction support from University Health System. The system was going to build mock hospital rooms and units in a warehouse to evaluate new equipment and furniture for University Hospital’s new tower. After those decisions were made, the rooms would be torn down.

The School of Nursing dean was a member of the advisory committee for the project. “I said, ‘Why not build it here and have your staff (physicians, nurses, therapists and administrators) walk over and give you feedback?’ That’s what we did and now we have simulation versions of several hospital units in our simulation center. We are grateful for this partnership and to all of our partners, donors and supporters,” Dr. Breslin said.

At the June 13 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the simulation center, President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, said, “This simulation center is among the most advanced in the nation and it was because of funds from generous philanthropic institutions, individuals and creative partnerships within the community that it came to fruition. No state funds were used to build this. I also want to commend Dean Breslin and her team for their visionary work. This was a dream of your school and it happened because you all believe in nursing and nursing education for our community.” The School of Nursing educates more than 800 students a year who are pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in diverse specialties of the profession.

Taking on a new role as director of the simulation center is Teresa Anne Boese, M.S.N., RN, who joined the Health Science Center in September. Boese is co-founding president of the International Nursing Association for Clinical Nursing Simulation and Learning, and was instrumental in writing the international standards for simulated education. “We are looking forward to tapping into Teri’s extensive knowledge about simulation to make our center even better for future nursing and interprofessional teams,” Dr. Breslin said.

So far, nursing students agree that the simulation training is an invaluable part of their education.

Fourth-semester nursing student Jessica Gallegos said, “It’s awesome seeing what you read in books coming to life here in the center. It comes full circle.”


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