Colleges Step-up Simulated Learning

Simulation Exercise

Simulation Exercise

"Learn by doing" is enhanced by simulated learning. Colleges across the country have created work settings and labs that replicate different careers, giving students a truly hands-on experience. And some schools are so taken with this form of learning — as are their students — they offer simulated learning in multiple fields. Simulation allows students to walk the path of a first responder, practice their bedside manner with patients, serve guests in a real hotel setting, or get the thrill of tracking storms.

In the right hand column of this page there is a video about one of our recent simulation exercises. The event involved students from six of our Health Science programs and dozens of instructors and administrators playing the parts of doctors, witnesses and victims and took two months to plan. The benefit to our students is invaluable.

"Learn by doing" is enhanced by simulated learning. Colleges across the country have created work settings and labs that replicate different careers, giving students a truly hands-on experience. And some schools are so taken with this form of learning — as are their students — they offer simulated learning in multiple fields. Simulation allows students to walk the path of a first responder, practice their bedside manner with patients, serve guests in a real hotel setting, or get the thrill of tracking storms.

Nurses training

Nursing is a growth area that makes good use of simulated learning. According to nursingsimulation.org, simulation use is widespread, with 87 percent of nursing programs reporting use of different levels of simulation. Simulated labs can include a hospital setting, doctor's office or a long-term care/rehabilitation facility, recreating the atmospherics and the responsibilities of a nursing career.

"Simulation in the area of medicine and nursing has become an important part of the education of students and practicing healthcare providers," according to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.

Donna Perchatsch, Nursing Simulation and Laboratory Manager at College of DuPage Health and Science Center, said one of the benefits to simulation is that it offers students the opportunity to practice patient care in a safe environment without risk of harming the patient. Depending on the course, students spend 25 percent of their time in simulated learning and 75 percent of their time at a clinical site.

The 25 percent simulated learning includes six-hour shifts in the simulation hospital or simulation center, added Perchatsch. "Students must come prepared as if it is a true hospital day and as if they will take care of real patients," she said. "They prepare by researching assigned cases ahead of time and arrive at the hospital for 'report' at 9 a.m. or 3 p.m. depending on their shift time."

Real world situations

Simulation goes a step further when students get the opportunity to interact with the public. The Chicago area with its vibrant hotel industry offers partnerships between colleges and hotels big and small, creating myriad opportunities for hands-on learning for the hospitality management student. Students can work in a professionally run hotel at the front desk or intern in management areas learning first-hand what it takes to please the public. Some schools have a unique "lab." For example, COD has a six-room fully operational boutique hotel, Inn at Water's Edge, on campus.

Colleges have embraced simulated learning in several other areas. Earth and atmospheric science students benefit from hydrology labs, where students study the earth's water and what impacts it, and can learn weather forecasting and track storms in the meteorology lab, updating a school's website with real-time weather information.

First responders learn life and death skills in a smoke room for fire rescue simulation and a full-scale ambulance. Gaining this type of experience can give an edge in the job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Dan Krakora worked as a firefighter/paramedic for 22 years and is the EMS/Fire Science Manager at COD. His department helps to simulate medical and trauma emergencies, vehicle accidents, etc. for EMT, EMS, and Paramedic programs.

These life and death scenarios bring the real world to simulated learning, said Krakora. "When students leave simulated training programs, they have had so much hands-on training and interaction with licensed professional paramedics (who play victims in the practical scenarios) that they are able to function as pre-hospital care providers from day No. 1 on the job."

Interprofessional exercises (IPEs) on campuses bring several study disciplines together through these mock emergency situations. At COD, students recently had the opportunity to respond to a simulated domestic violence incident that included first responder, nursing and health care students as well as media students who filmed the exercise and theater arts students who applied make-up on mannequins and victims.

"This was one of the best experiences I ever had as a student," said Mariga Agustin, who graduated in May with an associate degree in nursing. "Dealing with a live patient we definitely had to up our game with the beside manner. Having the patient actually talk to us and having a response made us think on our feet and say the right thing. I feel that I am definitely prepared for the real world. Before I came into the nursing program didn't think I could actually take care of a person, but coming out I actually feel a lot more confident."

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