Grant making a difference through simulated education in TROY’s School of Nursing

Simulations such as this one held in April help to prepare students with hands-on learning opportunities.

Simulations such as this one held in April help to prepare students with hands-on learning opportunities.

Faculty from Troy University’s School of Nursing are putting grant funds received last fall to good use by providing students with hands-on experience using simulation-based programs.

The $1.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, written by faculty members Dr. Rebecca Allen-Jones, Nikki Chen, Dr. Alisha Hilburn, Karri Booth, and Joy Butler, enabled the creation of Troy University Recruitment/Retention in Simulated Education (R.I.S.E.). R.I.S.E. 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.

Nursing students, along with students from other health-related disciplines, were the beneficiaries this spring of the new program as they took part in a mass casualty simulation. The scenario this spring used the setting of a simulated 5K race, and students encountered patients with various types of injuries ranging in severity from a cervical spine injury to lacerations and contusions.

“The School of Nursing aims to cultivate innovative learning techniques and help students succeed in their professional careers, but this effort requires funding,” said Dr. Hilburn, who oversaw the simulation exercise. “We sought the grant and created a program to better meet the needs of our students.”

Dr. Hilburn said simulations such as the one held this spring help students practice critical skills they will need once they enter the workforce.

“In many professions, especially in healthcare, effective teamwork is essential for delivering high-quality care,” she said. “IPE (interprofessional education) simulations allow students from different disciplines to work together, fostering collaboration skills, and understanding each other’s roles and perspectives. Miscommunication and misunderstandings among healthcare professionals can lead to errors and compromise patient safety. IPE simulations provide a safe environment for students to practice communication, coordination, and teamwork, which are critical for preventing errors and ensuring patient safety.”

Dr. Hilburn said the simulations should enable students to appreciate and optimize skill sets of various health care providers for best patient outcomes and learn to communicate effectively among health care providers, patients, and other stakeholders during emergent care.

“We did administer pre- and post-event surveys to assess the students’ perceptions,” she said. “We have completed this process since our first implementation in the Spring of 2023. The simulations have been a success.”

Also following the exercises, faculty conduct a debriefing session with the students.

“Debriefing after simulation is important because it facilitates reflection and learning, helps to clarify concepts and procedures, identifies strengths and areas for improvement, helps process emotions, enhances team communication and collaboration, applies learning to real-world contexts and provides closure and transition to regular learning,” she said.

Collaboration also plays a key role in the simulations, which are held both in the fall and the spring.

“Traditionally, healthcare education has been siloed, with little interaction between different disciplines. IPE simulations break down these silos by bringing students from various disciplines together, promoting interdisciplinary learning and fostering a more holistic approach to patient care,” she said. “We have intentionally included post-licensure health care providers from the community to participate with the pre-licensure nursing and athletic training students. The community disciplines include emergency medical services, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians. In the real world, healthcare professionals must collaborate seamlessly to provide optimal care to patients. IPE simulations help prepare students for this reality by exposing them to interdisciplinary teamwork early in their education, making them better prepared for their future careers.”

While retaining and preparing current nursing students is a major focus of the R.I.S.E. program, the faculty also use the simulations to recruit high school students interested in health-related fields.

“Each time we implement this simulation, we seek to include high school students from the surrounding communities as participants,” Dr. Hilburn said. “They serve as standardized patients and as patient care assistants in the scenarios. The high school students that are selected as volunteers are those interested in healthcare occupations and a part of school and/or community organizations regarding healthcare occupations. Utilizing the high school students allows them to experience what some of the healthcare professions are like and work alongside Troy University faculty and students. By incorporating simulations into our teaching approach, we are able to create a dynamic learning environment that effectively links the classwork and kinesthetic skills, leading to improved retention and mastery of the subject matter.”