Sault College sim labs offer experiential learning

Home simulation lab (L to R) Marilyn King, Andrew Metcalfe, Janet Piper, and Lori Matthews, with an adult simulation patient undergoing a dietary assessment.

Different health care scenarios showcased, including home

It looks like a typical home. There’s a stylish kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a bathroom with mobility assistance devices, a spacious bedroom and a washer and dryer to do laundry, but in reality it’s one of five simulation labs in the Extendicare Centre for Applied Learning in Health Sciences at Sault College.

The well-appointed home simulation lab was opened in March 2013 as a space for Health Science students to learn about home care. “Personal Support Workers (PSWs), among others, learn bathing and patient transfer techniques, and other safe home care practices,” said Janet Piper, health sciences lab specialist. “The rooms have microphones and cameras in the ceiling, so the professor doesn’t even have to be in the room to assess students.”

Four other simulation labs mimic other health-care settings. There are ten hospital beds and a nursing station; an adult lab for acute and chronic care simulations; a maternal child simulation lab and a fully-equipped assessment lab.

“Each lab has a different purpose, with 29 mannequins in total, 14 of which are computerized,” said Piper. “There are 23 adults and 5 child mannequins, which help to prepare our students for situations they are going to face.”

“We teach entry to practice competencies and guidelines for health sciences students,” said Andrew Metcalfe, professor, and co-ordinator of the college’s practical nursing program. “The simulators allow students to complete their thought process. If they make a mistake, they learn from it. It’s highly beneficial not stopping students during the process and letting things play out. It helps students to develop critical thinking skills.”

“The sim labs allow our students to master a skill before dealing with actual patients,” added Lori Matthews, professor and co-ordinator of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. “The hands-on preparation is invaluable. Not only do students get used to touching patients, but they live the experience instead of watching it being done.”

“The simulations are layered with a context, so that students are applying theory, but dealing with real world clinical settings,” added Marilyn King, dean of health, community services and interdisciplinary studies. “They are being assessed on a dressing change, but they’re learning about caring for the whole person.”

Community partners also see the value of the labs. “We have a number of community partners using the labs for conferences, for certification and training,” said Matthews. “From the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital, to the Stroke Care Network.”

“We’ve also hosted numerous professional training sessions. For example, correctional nurses practise skills that they don’t use every day and we offer an IV therapy course,” Piper added.

The Extendicare Centre for Applied Learning in Health Sciences is also recognized as a simulation partner for the Durham Critical Care Program, which delivers additional certifications for critical care nursing. Sault Area Hospital certifies staff on advanced cardiac life support training several times per year in the labs, and uses the mannequins for advanced trauma life support training.

“Health-care professionals recognize the benefits of learning patient safety, infection control, therapeutic communication and how to treat patients with dignity and respect in our simulation labs,” said Piper. “It’s a community lab, and that’s always been our goal.”

Sault Area Hospital and North East Community Care Access Centre, among others, have donated much of the furnishings and equipment in the rooms to make them as true to life as possible. “They have a vested interest in our students getting an excellent education,” said King. “We are grooming their future employees, and with our aging population, health care needs more qualified applicants.”

Sault College health science programs include the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, as well as several certificate programs, including Fitness and Health Promotion, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physiotherapy Assistant, Personal Support Worker, and Practical Nursing.

“Whether it’s a second year BScN student rotating through the maternity sim lab to learn the stages of labour and complications, or a fitness and health promotion student learning how to take vital signs, the simulators are key to their learning,” Metcalfe said.

“It is so gratifying to see students having those ‘light bulb’ or ‘aha’ moments, where they put all the pieces together…dealing with the patients emotionally and physically, and managing their own emotions too,” King added.

Sault College has developed a reputation for expertise in not only applying simulator scenarios, but also in creating them, and faculty have participated in presenting internationally and nationally on their sim lab work.

“It’s a wonderful learning environment for all of our health science students and community partners,” said Matthews.

Sault College programs:

– Bachelor of Science in Nursing
– Fitness & Health Promotion
– Health Office Administrative Support
– Medical Transcription
– Occupational Health & Safety
– Occupational Therapist Assistant/Physiotherapist Assistant
– Palliative Care
– Personal Support Worker
– Pharmacy Technician
– Practical Nursing
– Pre-Health Sciences
– Sterile Supply Processing
– Working with Dementia

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