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D&E, Davis Medical Partner for Realistic Learning Lab

November 06, 2017

Elkins – A new partnership between Davis & Elkins College and Davis Medical Center (DMC) will serve the community by preparing current and future nurses to give the best care to their patients in various settings. The Center for Advanced Clinical Learning, a simulation lab and facility for inter-professional education located on the DMC campus, provides an opportunity for D&E nursing students and the hospital’s nurses to learn and practice in a realistic and risk-free environment.

The public will have a chance to get a look inside the specially designed lab with facilities nearly identical to a clinical setting with mannequin patients. An open house is set for 1:30 p.m. Monday, November 6 and includes a ribbon cutting and tours. The Center for Advanced Clinical Learning by Davis Medical Center and Davis & Elkins College is located near the helicopter pad.
The idea for the simulation lab came about when D&E President Chris A. Wood and Davis Health System President and CEO Vance Jackson were discussing the needs of each of their facilities, how they could help one another and in turn serve the community.

“This project is mutually beneficial to the College and Davis Medical Center in that we are able to provide a better education for our nursing students and Davis Medical has a working lab for their nurses,” Wood said. “We also recognize the need for a greater number of health care providers, especially in the rural areas, and this gives us the opportunity to prepare our nursing students to fill those roles in a setting where they may choose to work upon graduation.”

Speaking of The Center for Advanced Clinical Learning, Jackson said, “This collaborative academic-practice partnership strengthens the link between education and clinical practice. It will greatly enhance the health care workforce in our region and serves as a successful example of how partnerships can evolve to address similar challenges and create opportunity.”
Approved for operation by the West Virginia RN Board of Examiners on October 13, the lab consists of individual units, such as an emergency room, pediatrics and examination room, each furnished with the same medical supplies and equipment used in DMC’s clinical settings.

Davis Medical Center Director of Education Brenda Mason says the hospital is eager to incorporate this latest technology into its education department and provide interactive strategies and engaged learning for its employees. The expanded lab more than doubles the size of the former training space used to simulate lifelike medical scenarios. Mason says that as funding becomes available, the goal is to make each room identical to the patient rooms at Davis Medical Center.

“Medical professionals must be technically skilled and prepared to respond to a patient's changing needs, and the simulation lab sharpens those skills for our health care providers and students,” Mason said. “This expansion gives us additional capacity for education, a priority at DMC, which helps ensure that we provide the best patient care possible to our community.”

While the medical equipment is real, the patients and their medical conditions are not. The interactive mannequins replicate humans of different ages and genders, and some can be programmed to display their current physiological status on computer monitors as well as normal and abnormal heart, lung and bowel sounds.

Learning how to recognize and respond to a clinical situation in a simulated setting will allow students to be prepared to respond appropriately in actual clinical situations. Whether the situation is a patient experiencing a seizure or a child with worsening asthma symptoms, that’s where the mannequins come in with life-like symptoms requiring the student’s nursing skills.

“The simulation can go from mild to extreme,” Chair of the D&E Division of Nursing Threasia Witt explained. “The students aren’t always going to know what to expect when they’re assigned to a (simulated) patient, just like in the real world. This helps prepare them in a more realistic environment.”

A generous gift from Davis & Elkins College Trustee Joyce Allen allowed for the purchase of hand-held computers used to control the function of the simulator.  Instead of the simulation lab coordinator having to step in front of the student to change the condition of the simulation while the student watches, she can change the status of the simulated patient without the student knowing that it has happened. 

“This technology continues to make the scenario more realistic,” Witt said. “For just as a patient’s condition can change quickly, so too can the condition of the simulated patient change quickly through the use of these hand-held devices.”

Witt, along with educators in the D&E Division of Nursing, have created other scenarios that involve not only the “patient,” but the surroundings and other events that could occur in a real medical situation. 

D&E Professor of Nursing Denice Reese, who is a Certified Health Simulation Educator and serves as D&E’s simulation lab coordinator, notes that sometimes in the simulated setting the students may make the wrong assessment, choose an inappropriate intervention or not prioritize well, and that’s OK, she says. “Improvement in the process of care occurs through critical reflection and debriefing.”

“The simulation laboratory gives students the opportunity to provide care to simulated patients in a variety of scenarios. They will encounter patients in high stakes, low frequency situations. It is in the reflection that learning occurs,” Reese said. “It makes for a deeper learning experience and they’ll be better prepared when they encounter these types of patients in the clinical setting.”
The learning experience has another yet layer for preparedness.

“One of the many benefits of having a simulation lab on the Davis Health System campus is we can train both proactively and reactively based on almost any scenario,” Mason said. “If our health care providers or students encounter a problem or scenario and would like to reconstruct it, we take that problem into the sim lab and create it. By doing this we can work together to find the right solution. Having The Center for Advanced Clinical Learning allows us to meet our patients' needs more confidently and effectively.” 

Future enhancements include closed-circuit video and two-way mirrors, enabling professors to observe and sometimes film students’ actions without being in the room.

Davis & Elkins College and Davis Health System have shared a decades-long partnership in training students in various health care fields, and many D&E alumni have made their career at the hospital. The simulation lab adds another level to the relationship.

“We’ve been thinking about this since 2016 and it’s so important to us at Davis Medical and our local community,” said DMC Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Pam Smithson. “It allows us to share space, equipment and skills in an actual realistic environment.”