Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) was awarded a $500,000 grant from the state of Massachusetts to help boost two of their programs. The college used the grant to purchase a new high-fidelity patient simulator for the Health Science program and robotic arms for the Electrical Engineering Technology program. The new simulator will help students and medical practitioners develop clinical skills and gain experience in treating patients.
Investing in Simulation to Improve Training
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito started the Skills Capital Grant in 2015. The grant was created to provide high schools, colleges, and other educational institutions with the funds to buy the most up-to-date training equipment.
Since 1999, STCC has used simulation to train their students. The program began with low-fidelity skills trainers that help students practice basic medical skills like applying an intravenous line or CPR. The program eventually incorporated mid- and high-fidelity simulators. The funds from the grant helped STCC purchase PEDIATRIC HAL, Gaumard’s high-fidelity pediatric patient simulator.
HAL joins STCC’s extensive collection of simulators. On an average day, 40 to 45 of STCC’s 73 patient simulators are in use. That means about 20,000 simulation experiences occur each year at the college’s simulation center where students work hands-on providing care to simulated patients. This places STCC in the top 5% of the largest centers for simulation training in the country.
Gaining Clinical Experience with Simulation
Why does SCTT dedicate so much time to simulation-based training? Research shows that experiential or hands-on learning helps students move from theory to practice and develop skills. Typically, healthcare students work hands-on with patients during clinical hours.
During clinical hours, students are exposed to the demands of a clinical setting and develop clinical skills by working hands-on with patients. The experience gained during clinical hours builds the skills, and confidence students will need to be effective healthcare providers.
Unfortunately, opportunities to gain experience are limited during clinical hours. Students only learn as cases present themselves, meaning students might never gain experience treating certain low-frequency, high-risk events like shoulder dystocia.
While these events occur rarely, they have a high risk of causing serious harm or death to patients. Thus, healthcare staff need to have the ability to respond quickly and effectively during these emergency events. It would be impractical and unethical for an inexperienced healthcare provider to treat such high-risk patients.
Thus, SCTT staff use simulation-based training, so students experience these events before they enter a real clinical setting. Simulation sessions allow students to gain experience treating a variety of both common and rare cases. Unlike in clinical hours, students can repeat procedures whenever and as often as necessary to hone their skills and avoid mistakes. As a result, there are no gaps in the students’ knowledge.
Furthermore, students can make mistakes and learn from those mistakes without the risk of harming a real patient. As such, the experience students gain from simulation-based training allows them to provide high-quality care and ensure better patient outcomes.
In fact, the college’s simulation program is so successful that twice a year practicing medical and EMS professionals, first responders, and medical staff from Baystate, Mercy, and Holyoke Medical Centers come to SCTT to practice treating low-frequency, high-risk cases.
Improving Patient Care in Springfield
Dean of the School of Health & Patient Simulation Christopher Scott credits the extensive simulation-based training students and practicing healthcare professionals receive at STCC for improved patient care across Springfield’s local hospitals and emergency services.
The reason for their success is that Scott and his staff design each simulation to be as realistic as possible. Every detail about the simulated patient—from facial expressions, symptoms, gender, race, and religion— is carefully planned out under the advisement of medical experts.
As such, PEDIATRIC HAL was a natural fit for SCTT’s simulation center because he is capable of simulating the subtle facial and emotional cues pediatric patients use to communicate. These subtle features help healthcare providers develop the skills needed to communicate, diagnose, and treat pediatric patients.