BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— A new teaching center simulating both hospital and home healthcare
environments has been completed at Illinois Wesleyan University’s School of Nursing (SON).
Housed on the garden level of Stevenson Hall, the center features two “hospital” rooms
equipped with sophisticated, computer-run manikins. The design of the new center allows
Professional Staff Laboratory Associate Becky Altic, BSN, RN, to program the manikins
with medical conditions, vital signs and outcomes from a control room that is not
visible to the nursing students practicing their skills in the simulated hospital
environment. Altic works collaboratively with SON faculty to develop, implement and
evaluate simulations as an integral learning experience in all core nursing courses.
Simulation in nursing education is a method to guide students in clinical scenarios
and let them experience a course of medical and nursing events in a safe environment.
Student preparation in clinical simulations enhances their critical thinking skills
on the job, according to SON officials.
In the SON’s previous physical space on the first floor of Stevenson, Altic programmed
the scenarios from a computer station in the same room as the students. While that
design adequately provided quality and safety training for nursing students, it was
no longer consistent with best practices in simulated nursing environments.
“Removing the person running the simulations from the proximity of the patient and
the students increases fidelity tremendously,” said Altic. “For students to experience
the full range of conditions and situations they will encounter as nurses, the simulation
center must appear to be like an actual medical setting.”
“Today’s hospital patients are sicker, with more intense medical conditions,” said
Associate Professor of Nursing Susan Swanlund. “So the need for increased technology
for nursing assessment and intervention is essential, even in a simulated practice
With the additional space on the garden level, SON also added a room designed to mimic
a small apartment. This space is a unique feature; it allows students to conduct home
health assessments and nursing interventions in life-like settings. As the U.S. population
over age 65 continues to grow, a simulated home environment allows students to practice
functional assessments and evaluations of the skills older adults need to successfully
live independently, Swanlund said.
“In home health, practitioners not only assess the patient, but they also are assessing
the environment,” explained Altic. “They are looking for safety issues, proper medication
storage and necessary resources.”
After students finish their simulation experience, they “debrief” with a SON faculty
member in a separate classroom appointed with multi-media equipment. All simulations
are filmed; previously, a lack of electronic equipment prohibited playback reviews
of every simulation, Altic said. Faculty and students discuss all aspects of the simulation
in an environment that promotes more critical thinking and reflection than the previous
physical space allowed.
The layout of the simulation center provides a deliberate pathway from simulation
to debriefing. Students who are waiting to start their simulations are protected from
any transfer of information or emotion from the students who have just completed their
debriefing – a vital element in experiential learning.
“Research findings confirm that well-designed, high-fidelity simulation is effective
in preparing students for complex direct patient experiences by promoting clinical
judgment in a safe learning environment,” said SON Director Vickie Folse, who is also
Caroline F. Rupert Endowed Chair of Nursing.
Folse said the new space helps meet the demands of increased student enrollment and
that a state-of-the-art simulation center makes the SON more competitive when recruiting