A nearly $1.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health And Human Resources will help Troy University recruit and retain nursing students through the increased use of simulation-based education programs.
Nursing faculty members Dr. Rebecca Allen-Jones, Nikki Chen and Dr. Alisha Hilburn wrote the grant, which enables the creation of the Troy University Recruitment/Retention in Simulated Education (R.I.S.E). R.I.S.E. will focuses on utilizing simulation activities to recruit students into the nursing program, facilitate students’ progression through the program and train them to care for patient populations facing inequities and limited access to healthcare.
“I am incredibly excited and proud of Drs. Rebecca Allen-Jones and Nikki Hilburn as well as Mrs. Nikki Chen for their grant success,” said Dr. Wade Forehand, Director of the School of Nursing. “The R.I.S.E. grant is going to make a lasting impact for the recruitment and retention of BSN students at TROY. As the nursing program prepares for its new home, Jones Hall, this effort will help to provide the necessary technology needed for our new simulation spaces. The need across our communities, state, and the nation has never been greater for nurses. Our nursing programs continue to prepare excellent, practice-ready nurses that are primed to meet the needs of the healthcare system. The work and success of these ladies comes at the most ideal time for the BSN program.”
Dr. Allen-Jones, principal investigator for the project, said the use of simulations help nursing students practice concepts and procedures they are learning in the classroom, better preparing them for what they will encounter once they enter the field.
“We want to make our SIM space competitive with what other schools in the state and across the nation are doing, and this grant will greatly assist us in these efforts,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of research to learn the latest ways to teach, and since the Board of Nursing has started to allow more simulation hours to count toward clinical hours, we’re hoping that we can start to actually use simulations more and use them in a way that our students have more confidence when they start taking care of real people.”
In writing the grant proposal, the three faculty members examined areas from which TROY draws nursing students, as well as areas in which those students generally work following graduation.
“One of the big emphases of the grant was being able to reach communities with low-income populations and those populations that have some specific health concerns such as COPD, diabetes, obesity or others,” Dr. Allen-Jones said. “We looked to see where our students came from and where they generally go to work. They are coming from areas that have high incidences of those diseases and then they are turning around and going to work in areas that also have high incidences of those diseases. We want to add simulations that will help them become comfortable with working with patients who may face these challenges.”
Some of those challenges, she said, may include caring for patients who face mental health issues, providing maternity and infant health care in underserved populations, battered and abused women, and those who require home health services.
Some funds from the grant will be used to create a simulated home environment where students from multiple disciplines can simulate caregiving. The simulated home environment will foster a collaborative partnership with disciplines such as social work, athletic training, emergency medicine services, psychology, drama and arts, and allied health sciences.
While simulated education isn’t a new concept within TROY’s School of Nursing, the grant funds will help improve existing efforts while also creating additional opportunities.
“Currently, we have one high-fidelity mannequin, and we are hoping to outfit several of those, as well as some pediatric mannequins that we can work with,” she said. “We are also looking to integrate table-top SIMS, which are simulations that the instructor can bring directly to the classroom to reinforce what the students are learning with some real-life examples.”
Given nursing shortages nationwide, Dr. Allen-Jones said recruiting the next generation of caregivers is more important than ever before, spurring the need for outreach in high schools and middle schools, and even elementary schools.
“We will be doing some community outreach, going into high schools and hopefully some elementary schools, to show students what nursing truly is and the opportunities the field offers,” she said. “We’re even hoping to be able to develop something to benefit incoming freshmen or transfer students that have not yet applied to nursing. We want to be able to capture these students before they even enter our doors to start nurturing them and introducing them to nursing so that they are prepared when they begin the program.”
In addition to benefiting students, Troy University R.I.S.E. will focus on strengthening the faculty. Training will be provided to enhance faculty knowledge of simulation, and dedicated simulation staff will be hired to facilitate the implementation of simulations throughout the program.
“We are so excited to be able to pour these funds back into our students and our prospective students,” she said. “We want our students to come in and feel like they have everything they need to be successful, both as they progress through the program and in the field once they graduate.”