GCC enhances healthcare education with new patient simulation manikins

March 1, 2010

Greenfield Community College’s nursing and paramedic students are learning their professions on state of the art patient simulation manikins thanks to two federal grants and collaboration with other community colleges and area hospitals.

The new adult and baby SIMS (Simulated Instructional Manikin System) manikins simulate a range of medical conditions and respond just like human patients, providing a truly interactive learning environment. Cheri Ducharme, Program Coordinator of GCC’s Associate Degree Nursing Program said, “SIMS manikins allow our students to increase skill development, identify gaps in their learning, and work to improve, all in a controlled environment. When our students move into real clinical situations, they have ‘been there before’ and know how to react. The manikins help them learn how to make treatment decisions accurately and quickly.”

GCC’s nursing and paramedic education programs have used simulation manikins for many years, but earlier manikins were less sophisticated. Ducharme said, “For five years, we have used manikins for teaching skills such as checking vital signs. These new manikins can do much more. Instructors can program them to have voices and changing physical symptoms based on the treatment the manikin receives.” The new manikins, produced by Laerdal, cost $73,000 for SAM, the adult and $40,000 for PAT, the baby manikin.

To create an effective educational environment, you need more than sophisticated technology, you need faculty prepared to effectively use the technology in their courses and environments that simulate patient care situations. The grants provide for faculty development, helping GCC’s faculty develop new ways to teach essential skills to their students. Ducharme and John O’Brien, the STAT Patient Simulation Technician, have experience and training in working with manikins and are training other GCC faculty in their use. In his work as an instructor in the GCC Paramedic Certificate Program satellite site at Springfield Technical Community College, O’Brien has worked in STCC’s extensive SIMS “hospital.”

Nursing students use the manikins in Fundamentals of Nursing and Medical Surgical Nursing courses. Paramedic students use them in Prehospital Trauma Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support courses as well as in “putting it all together” scenario-based learning prior to their practical “capstone” exam. Use of SIMS manikins also will be incorporated into the Practical Nursing Certificate Program.

GCC’s two new manikins were purchased with assistance from a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration as part of the Northern Tier Health Care Training Initiative and a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Northern Tier grant is a collaborative project of GCC and Mt. Wachusett Community College, Berkshire Community College, and partner employers, including Baystate Franklin Medical Center. The grant brings patient simulation capabilities to the same level at the three community colleges.

The Department of Labor “Workforce STAT (Skills, Talent, Awareness, Training): Transforming Regional Capacity for Healthcare Education” grant, in collaboration with Springfield Technical Community College and area hospitals, provides technology and training and supports the Patient Simulation Technician position. The Workforce STAT grant also supports GCC’s use of SIMS manikins as tools for career exploration sessions with area students and community members considering healthcare careers.

Dawn Josefski, Director of GCC’s Paramedic Certificate Program, said, “Because the new manikins do not need to be plugged into a wall, and instructors can manipulate them from another room, situations and environments appropriate to emergency medical situations are created. Without the instructor present, students must rely on their own knowledge. The debrief and video review help students see their own progression in proficiency. The SIMS manikins create situations as close to real experiences as possible.”

What does “close to real” mean for future patients of the students using GCC’s new manikins? O’Brien sums it up, saying, “Students and area health professionals using this technology in their training means that our loved ones and community members will receive the best possible care from paramedics and nurses.”

For more information about GCC’s Associate Degree Nursing Program, visit www.gcc.mass.edu/programs/nursing/ or contact Cheri Ducharme at ducharme@gcc.mass.edu. For more information about GCC’s Paramedic Certificate Program, visit www.gcc.mass.edu/programs/ems or contact Dawn Josefski at josefski@gcc.mass.edu.