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Nursing Simulation -- Educating for the Future

by Michael Johns, Project Manager | July 28, 2006
Consistent Training for Nurses
Using a Smart Hospital
UTA School of Nursing, a Laerdal Center of Excellence in Simulation, is on the leading edge of innovations in health care education.

As reported on July 9, 2006,
An overly modest announcement made earlier this month that UT-Arlington's School of Nursing had bought a building on West Nedderman Street to house a Smart Hospital barely made a ripple in town.

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"I don't think any other program in the world has all the resources in both quantity and quality -- and we will have another major announcement soon -- that will underscore this." -- Elizabeth Poster, Dean, UT-Arlington Nursing.

Though the event qualified as a major announcement within the national medical community, most Arlington residents probably didn't catch the significance, part of which is this:

It means that Arlington could well become the world leader in what is considered an advanced frontier of nursing education -- the use of highly sophisticated simulation systems that reproduce a variety of medical problems.

The major flaw in nursing education has always been consistency. Training can be first-rate, instructors dedicated and talented, students zealous and attentive. But it can still take nurses many years on the job to see even a small sampling of more esoteric medical problems.

There's a lot of difference between a textbook or lecture about tuberculosis, malaria or typhus and actually running into a patient with the ailment.

But there is one demonstrated shortcut to providing students with hands-on experience. That's to use simulation technology, essentially manikins that create computer simulations of healthcare problems in patients young and old with different degrees of severity. The programs are so sophisticated that they can also be used to teach students to work with trauma, emergency-room problems and both intensive and primary care interventions.

Clearly there is not, nor will there ever likely be, a fully adequate substitute for practical experience. But UT-Arlington nursing dean Elizabeth Poster believes that with simulation training, graduates will begin their professional lives with the kind of experience that usually takes years to accumulate.

"I don't think any other program in the world has all the resources in both quantity and quality -- and we will have another major announcement soon -- that will underscore this," Poster said.

Poster is not prone to undue superlatives. If she believes the UTA simulation program to be among the elite, even a world leader, then take it to the bank. That status also means that the Smart Hospital will become the testing ground for new, increasingly complex technology in the field.