Nursing, social work students participate in medical simulations with Wallace, ACOM

Students worked together to assess, treat and provide resources to patients.

Students worked together to assess, treat and provide resources to patients.

Troy University social work and nursing students participated in a joint Interprofessional Education (IPE) medical simulation day alongside other healthcare students from Wallace Community College-Dothan (WCCD) and the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM). WCCD hosted the event in its new Health Sciences Simulation Center on Friday.

During the day-long event, students from each institution worked together to care for a standardized patient with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities each profession has in patient care.

“It’s a great experience for our TROY students because many of them have never had a healthcare setting experience—going in and being the person to assess that family and that patient, and then implement any intervention strategies or pull together resources,” said Rachel Walker, a lecturer in TROY’s social work department and one of the event’s organizers. “This is a great opportunity for them to get that first experience and put their feet in the water. As social workers soon to graduate with their masters, a lot of them want to go into the healthcare field but don’t have any experience in it, so this is a good eye opener for what that could be like.”

Because the program is designed to emphasize the value of team-based healthcare, students were placed in interprofessional groups to encourage collaborative teamwork and problem-solving. Each simulation featured a patient, a family member, a social worker, nurses and a doctor.

Caitlin Curenton, a third-year nursing student from Fairhope, Ala., said the experience differed from their usual training and appreciated the chance to practice outside of a clinical setting.

“It’s been a really cool experience. We normally just do our simulations with a mannequin and six other nursing students, which isn’t really realistic because you’ll never work with that many nurses at the exact same time,” Curenton said. “It was interesting to get to work with a real medical team with a super realistic patient and family members. It was very real—it definitely simulated a hospital experience. It felt like something that would happen in clinicals. I loved it.”

TROY social work students speak with patients' families in the hall of the Simulation Center.
TROY social work students speak with patients’ families in the hall of Wallace’s Simulation Center.

The groups first participated in a team-building exercise followed by a case study segment where each team member was assigned specific roles. At the end of each simulation, groups gathered for a debriefing period to discuss where improvements needed to be made and things that went well.

Daughtry O’Quinn, a social work grad student from Thomasville, Ga., said it was beneficial to him to see the medical side of healthcare and how the different departments work together for the betterment of their patients.

“I work at a hospital, and this was really my first time getting to see the other side, the medical side, of things. Getting to see what happens before they get to us was really interesting,” he said. “It was reassuring to see that, even though all of us were kind of lost at first, we all helped the patient. Everyone was so supportive, and we found that we were able to help each other more than we thought.”

Not only do the simulation exercises offer the chance for hands-on experiences, it gives students the opportunity to try different approaches without the fear of negatively impacting a patient.

“Any time you can get face-to-face with a patient in any arena is always going to help you. This is the time to really sharpen your skills, use verbiage you might not know if you want to use in a real encounter and sharpen those communication skills with your patient,” O’Quinn said. “If you mess up in this, you’re not going to get fired or get in the way of a patient’s care. You’re able to test out theories and do it in a controlled environment where you get direct feedback afterwards on how it sounded and be able to take that feedback and put it into practice with real patients.”

Curenton added, “We are taught a linear way to asses a patient, but I learned that it’s not always linear. I’ve seen that in clinical before, but in a clinical setting I’m just the student so my initial assessment is not what the doctors are basing their information on. Having this experience is going to help me take better care of my patients because I’m getting the opportunity to work out giving a more thorough assessment and to think deeper about what kind of education I can give them for when they go home and have to continue their own care.”

TROY social work students debrief with a TROY lecturer in a break between simulation exercises.
TROY social work students debrief with a TROY lecturer in a break between simulation exercises.

Over 40 TROY nursing students and over 25 TROY social work students participated in the simulations, accompanied by over 180 ACOM students and nearly 40 WCCD nursing students. The volume of nursing and med students allowed the social work scholars to be part of multiple scenes.

“Being part of multiple simulations gave them an opportunity to practice on things that they felt they didn’t do a great job on in the first encounter; they had a second and even a third encounter to improve,” Walker said. “This really is a great partnership and a great networking event and I look forward to continuing it.”

Interprofessional Education day is part of an ongoing series of collaborative events between WCCD, ACOM and TROY. Despite being canceled in 2020 due to COVID, the simulation has been an annual event for over three years and has a bright future.

“Wallace is pleased to host this Interprofessional Education simulation,” said Dr. Jacqueline Spivey, WCCD Division Director, Associate Degree Nursing. “This simulation does benefit the students by preparing them for the world outside of the classroom. As always, it is such an exciting day to see how the groups interact in such a collegial manner to enhance quality patient care.”

“Interprofessional Education is experiential learning at its finest, revealing medical team management through experiencing each medical person’s role in healthcare,” said John T. Giannini Jr., MD, ACOM Associate Professor of Internal Medicine/Director of Simulation.

Currently, Interprofessional Education day is only open to TROY nursing and master’s level social work students.