New simulators will enhance experience for IECC/OCC Nursing Program students

The Illinois Eastern Community Colleges/Olney Central College Nursing Program is utilizing new "life-like" simulation trainers to enhance students' classroom experience. Instructors from Frontier Community College, Lincoln Trail College, Olney Central College and Wabash Valley College recently participated in a training session at OCC. The training was provided by Laerdal, manufacturer of the Nursing Mid-fidelity Simulation Trainer.

New classroom simulators are ensuring students in the Illinois Eastern Community Colleges/Olney Central College Associate Degree Nursing Program have the skills needed to succeed in their clinical and healthcare settings.

The Laerdal Nursing Mid-fidelity Simulation Trainers provide greater versatility than the program’s older mannequins and will give students a more realistic nursing experience.

The simulators are programmed to exhibit various health-related scenarios students will encounter in the real world. Using the LLEAP for SimPad Plus, faculty can make the simulator respond like a real patient during a student assessment. The devices also come with a monitor, which enables students to observe vital signs, ECG tracings, and oxygenation status.

“I’m really excited to have these,” said Theresa Marcotte, Associate Dean of Nursing and Allied Health. “The simulator is very life-like, with heart, bowel and lung sounds, the chest moves up and down, and you can feel a pulse in the wrist and the feet. It even blinks. It gives us one more link in the learning process to help prepare our students for entry into practice.”

The IECC-OCC Nursing Program purchased three trainers through an Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) Nursing School Improvement Grant, with one trainer allocated to Olney Central College in Olney, Lincoln Trail College in Robinson and Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel. A fourth simulator is being acquired through Perkins Grant funding for use at Frontier Community College in Fairfield.

Last month, two faculty members from each college attended a training session with Laerdal representatives at OCC.

As part of the IBHE grant, all nursing faculty participated in a Zoom meeting with Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville nursing faculty Amy Reed and Chelsea Howland, who utilize the simulators with their students. These simulation experts shared their journey with implementing simulation in their programs. 

“It was a boon to have nursing faculty from the university share their experiences and expertise,” Marcotte said. “They discussed and demonstrated how the simulators were incorporated into their curriculum. They gave us a number of scenarios to use in the classroom so our faculty didn’t have to start from scratch. We have established a strong relationship with SIU-E while collaborating on an RN to BSN program. In fact, Dr. Laura Bernaix, Dean of the School of Nursing, wrote a letter of support for the IBHE Grant. We are working together to make a positive impact on nursing in southern Illinois.”

OCC Nursing Department Head Anne Hustad said the simulators are a welcomed addition to the program.

“We can use them in place of some of our clinical experiences, which will be beneficial with the uncertainty we are facing with COVID-19,” she added.

Marcotte said it took a district-wide effort to ensure the simulators were ready for students to use this fall.

“I want to thank OCC President Rodney Ranes and the District IT Department who helped make this possible,” she said. “The administration has been so supportive. IECC Chancellor Dr. Ryan Gower is also a big supporter, along with the IECC Board of Trustees. The administrations at each college have been helpful in making this project a reality. I’m very grateful to work where the nursing program has this kind of support, district-wide. Everyone has been great.”

Marcotte added, “I’m so excited the program and faculty has this new tool to facilitate learning. Faculty continue to grow and incorporate new technology as nursing education changes. They are so dedicated to what they do. We are a community college nursing program doing big things for our students and the communities we serve.”