New Nursing Simulation Lab Offers Training in Home Health Care

Posted on 12/8/2011 12:29:02 PM

With the receipt of a $299,890 federal grant authored by department chair Elizabeth Palmer, the Nursing and Allied Health Professions Department has added a new simulation laboratory focused on preparing students for the special challenges of home health care.

The new simulation laboratory, located in Putt Hall, also provides hands-on training for students in the use of electronic medical records. Palmer is the project director, and Julia Greenawalt, assistant chair for the department, is codirector.

Students work with a manikin in the department's first nursing simulation lab in Johnson Hall. Still used, the lab provides a hospital-like setting.

The department introduced its first simulation laboratory in 2007. This lab, located in Johnson Hall, was renovated and expanded in 2009 and now includes nine adult manikins, two adolescent manikins, a pediatric (baby) manikin, and other training equipment. The simulation lab has two hospital-style rooms with control-observation rooms and the capability to broadcast to nearby classrooms.

The high-fidelity manikins in the new simulation laboratory suffer from a variety of health issues, but they are also housed in a home-like setting to simulate a home-care situation.

“Because of a shortage of nurses, there is an increasing number of home health care patients, especially in the rural areas, who are monitored by telehealth systems,” Palmer said. The simulation equipment will enhance undergraduate nursing education with opportunities to practice nursing care using electronic documentation and telehealth services prior to their on-site experiential work.”

The Putt Hall manikins are designed to mimic a rural patient with a common chronic illness, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, or obesity, the most prevalent health concerns of rural residents in the United States.

Students work with adult manikin in nursing simulation laboratory

This laboratory will be especially helpful to students because a telehealth nurse, in addition to receiving data from patients, must learn to work with patients in the home, according to the project directors.

“The nurses of tomorrow will be data driven and patient centered,” Greenawalt said.

The high fidelity manikins not only present with symptoms from a variety of illnesses, but they can talk to the nurse to say how they are feeling. They change temperature, their pupils constrict, they have seizures, and they expel liquids in all the ways a human does, including sweating and crying.

“Students learn how to care for their patients through our simulation laboratories, and we can recreate the entire hospital experience. Students portray the doctor, the anxious family member, and other hospital staff, in order for our nursing students to understand what they will be facing as nurses,” Palmer said.

In addition to the students caring for the patients, the students who are watching the simulation in the debriefing room also learn from the experience. During the debrief, students and the instructor offer comments, criticisms, and praise for the way the case was handled.

Because manikins are being used, if students are having difficulty with a particular procedure, they can come back for a do-over to become proficient. This zero-fault environment is unique to simulation and fosters deeper learning, Greenawalt said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new nursing simulation lab was held December 9 outside Putt Hall.

Every junior or senior Nursing major has at least two or three simulated learning opportunities with the high-fidelity manikins each semester. Sophomore nursing majors are initiated with the medium-fidelity manikins.

“By their senior year, our nursing students have become very skilled with hands-on care,” Palmer said.

Using the recent grant funds, the department has also purchased equipment to help students learn to use electronic medical records. “This is a great advantage to our students, as some clinical sites require up to three days of training before students can even begin their clinical experience,” Palmer said.

“We have been very, very fortunate to have successfully secured this grant for our home-health care simulation laboratory and electronic medical records training equipment. Private funds are crucial to our ability to continue to offer cutting-edge training opportunities for our students,” Palmer said.

About Elizabeth Palmer

Elizabeth Palmer is a graduate of the IUP nursing program and received her Ph.D. from Duquesne University in 1999. She joined the IUP faculty in 1999 and was elected chairperson in May 2008.

She is active with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, serving on the Baccalaureate Conference Committee and with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Nursing Schools Association. Palmer is a certified nurse educator through the National League for Nursing.
Currently, she teaches mostly at the master’s and doctoral level but has taught across the undergraduate and graduate curriculums. At the undergraduate level, she focuses on clinical areas related to adult health nursing, and, at the graduate level, she teaches course work in research, curriculum, measurement and evaluation, and health policy.

At IUP, she has been active on committees at the department and college level and, on a larger scale, the college curriculum committee and APSCUF, currently chairing the IUP APSCUF Scholarship Committee.

In addition to the recent grant for the simulation laboratory, she has been successful in securing external grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration for Advanced Education Nursing Traineeships, the Environmental Protection Agency, United Way, and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

About Julia Greenawalt

Julia Greenawalt, assistant chairperson of the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions and coordinator of the simulation laboratory, was instrumental in founding the Johnson Hall simulation laboratory. She received her B.S. in Nursing from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008. She joined the IUP faculty in 2006.

Greenawalt is the recipient of the 2011 Excellence Award for Integration of Simulation in the Academic Setting from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. She currently teaches Maternal Health Nursing (NURS 333), focusing on the professional role of the obstetrical nurse in the clinical setting. She is active in the IUP community, serving on University Senate and the Undergraduate Wide University Curriculum Committee and as the APSCUF representative for her department.

She is also very active in the professional organizations that foster learning with simulation, such as the Society for Simulation in Healthcare and International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.