Carol Diehl, RN, MSN, MSED, has caused quite a stir at the Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences with her news that a child is on the way.
Many colleagues and students have asked Diehl whether the child will be arriving naturally or via adoption. Truth be told, it’s neither.
The impending little one is a “Sim.” He’s a high-fidelity mannequin upon which students under the tutelage of Diehl, the school’s simulation coordinator, will hone their pediatrics techniques. He’s currently on order, coming courtesy of a state grant.Debbie Rahn, RN, MSN, CNE, FABC
“Sims are a specialty unto themselves,” says Debbie Rahn, RN, MSN, CNE, FABC, director of the West Reading, Pa., school’s nursing program. “Carol’s role is really important to nursing education and teaching today. Students seem to enjoy learning by doing. And adding the simulation to the clinical is just a huge benefit.”
Grant funds technology
On Jan. 31, Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced a plan giving nursing schools across the state $1.8 million to expand opportunities for nurse education. The goal is to ease the shortage of qualified nurses in Pennsylvania.
The Reading Hospital and Medical Center’s nursing program is just one of 20 grant recipients. They will split $679,933 earmarked to expand clinical education for nurses and $1.1 million designated for the purchase of training equipment. Beyond the state’s investment, there will be at least $2.1 million in private-sector matching funds.
The Reading school has received a Nurse Education Equipment Grant. It got $81,760 from the state and $81,760 in local funds, for a total of $163,520 to be used for the procurement of teaching tools. In January, the school opened a state-of-the-art, $30 million campus at the corner of Museum Road and Parkside Drive, just up the street from Reading Hospital. The additional funds are coming through the Berks County Workforce Investment Board.
The monies, in part, will add the child-sized Sim to Diehl’s ever-growing mannequin family. She already has several lower-fidelity mannequins in a large room set up as a regular hospital floor, complete with a functional nurses’ station.
“The students have to learn how to work there, too,” Diehl says.
There’s also Sim Man, a high-fidelity model, which Diehl can program to mimic any number of medical conditions. Students come into his private room, set up as an intensive care room, and are put through their paces. Diehl monitors their progress from a different room, controlling Sim Man’s responses and medical condition with a laptop. On the other side of Diehl’s computer room is a second private room, containing “Noelle,” an obstetrics Sim, complete with two low-fidelity Sim babies.
Video cameras are constantly being added to the training rooms to follow the students’ moves. Teachers — and in some cases even classmates — observe from another room and critique techniques.
The Sims allow students to practice and learn in as safe an environment as possible. And the mannequins represent how the school is on the cutting edge of nursing education.
“Where a lot of schools are just starting out [in terms of technology], we’re already there,” says Diehl, whose position was funded in March 2007 through another grant. “We’ve been putting the pieces in place for the last three or four years, and now other schools are calling us for information. This is the way to go.”
New computer lab
January’s grant also has funded a 50-unit computer lab. With those computers, students may use the Internet, do homework or log on to use training software called MicroSim.
“Students come in and work on a virtual hospital program,” Rahn says. “The patient will get better or worse depending on what the student does. Then the computer will critique the student’s performance. It really works well since so many of the students are already so tech-savvy.”
The technology serves as a draw for prospective students. “When high school students come in and take a tour [of the new facility],” Rahn says, “it helps spark their interest and maybe gets them to say, ‘I could do this.’ “
And as the grants keep coming — Rahn and Diehl remain on the lookout for application possibilities — the school, and the Sim program, will keep growing.
“A dream of mine is to go from soup to nuts and have the whole process under one umbrella,” Diehl says. “We’ll be able to work with all levels of students in all areas and simulate all aspects of a trauma or illness.”