Simulations, VR Implemented in Macomb Community College Nursing Program

Nursing students (left to right) Dennis Swiontek, Kimberly Turner, Elyse Vinson, and Amber Worth assess the patient and prepare medication during a simulation exercise. // Courtesy of MCC
Nursing students (left to right) Dennis Swiontek, Kimberly Turner, Elyse Vinson, and Amber Worth assess the patient and prepare medication during a simulation exercise. // Courtesy of MCC

Macomb Community College (MCC) based in Warren is using patient simulation, augmented and virtual reality, and real-world experiences to create an immersive educational experience for its students to better prepare them for careers in health care.

Simulations using responsive anatomical mannequins, augmented and virtual reality, and 3-D modeling reinforce what is taught in the classroom, lab, and through supervised, hands-on patient care in a clinical setting.

Used throughout the course of Macomb’s associate degree nursing program, students learn vital skills and practice technique in a completely safe environment for both the student and the patient.

It allows the students to experience high-stress situations, such as treating a cardiac arrest patient or delivering a baby, in a nonpunitive learning environment where mistakes don’t harm the patient but greatly contribute to student learning from both the exercise and the critical follow-up debriefing.

“They throw a lot at you, so you get comfortable being out of your comfort zone,” says Elyse Vinson, a nursing that lives in Clinton Township. “There is not as much pressure to be perfect the first time and making a mistake is okay because you don’t have a live person there. But you get a chance to be uncomfortable and be put in situations that when you’re a nursing student, you don’t experience.”

Macomb uses three levels of simulators, low, middle, and high, to teach various techniques. Each level of simulator offers certain benefits.

The high-fidelity simulator mannequins mimic the needs and conditions of an actual patient. It can bleed, breathe, and otherwise imitate a predetermined condition. It can also communicate with the student through built-in speakers. Using augmented reality, students can see inside the body and discover the root cause for symptoms they may be seeing outwardly on a patient.

“With the high-fidelity simulators, there’s actually a conversation that goes back and forth,” says Kim Kennedy, a nursing professor at MCC. “So, if you take vital signs, vital signs appear on the monitor. If you ask the patient a question, like are you having pain, through the simulation coordinator, the patient responds. The high-fidelity simulator is responsive. If I feel its wrist, I’d feel a pulse. If a put a stethoscope to its chest, I hear lung sounds.”

Students learn patient care skills during the simulations, including administering medications, performing physical evaluations of the patient’s condition, and treating that condition, whether it’s a minor injury or total body system failure. Students also learn soft skills, such as compassion for the patient, strong communication skills and critical thinking, which are important facets of diagnosing and treating a patient.

In addition to the college’s nursing program, the simulations are used in respiratory therapy and occupational therapy programs as well as for training paramedics in MCC’s Public Service Institute, which prepares individuals for careers as first responders.

“We use the simulators to chip away at the learning curve, so employers get skilled, entry level graduates,” says Andrea Shaw, associate dean of health and human services, who oversees Macomb’s nursing program. “Instead of the student just reading it and explaining it, the student is taking part in the event as it takes place, which really uses their visual sensory skills and critical thinking skills, and helps them learn better.”

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