College offers Healthcare Simulation Center as training facility for students


By David Hurtado

Treating bodily wounds has progressed greatly since the days of the American Civil War, when amputating a limb was common practice on the battlefield. The tenets of medicine, however, remain unchanged.

Medical practitioners are expected to understand the human body thoroughly, providing the safest treatments to their patients while keeping the Hippocratic Oath. The college’s Healthcare Simulation Center is one of many facilities across the country for training future physicians to do just that.

Kathy Carver, professor, Zamierowski Endowed Professorship, said the Healthcare Simulation Center became operational in 2008, intended as an additional avenue for students to be able to receive clinical experience. Funding for the project was raised mostly from private donations, totaling $900,000, which the college matched, as well as an additional $326,245 provided by the Kansas Board of Regents.

“Oftentimes the schools in the western areas of the state have very limited resources, especially hospitals who work with different types of patients,” Carver said. “Simulation was thought that it could bridge some of those gaps. What we have found is that it not only bridges those gaps, but enhances the students’ experience dramatically. We’ve seen a huge growth from our students in their level of nursing care by the time they graduate.”

The 2,000 square-foot simulation center itself has the look, feel and equipment one might find inside a hospital. Each patient room contains working vital sign monitors, defibrillators with crash carts, oxygen and other authentic medical equipment. Carver said many of the scenarios students handle mirror almost exactly the same type of patient that they may have with their clinical instructors.

“I was amazed the first time I walked in here, how much it felt like you walked into a real hospital,” said Tara Avena, student. “I think we’re able to get exposed to a lot more experiences than we would if we only had clinicals. It’s as lifelike as you can get without it being real people.”

The patients themselves are sophisticated simulators capable of being programmed to display a wide variety of illnesses, respond physiologically to treatment and simulate conditions similar to infants, children or adults. In addition, each medical-surgery room features three cameras in triangular positions, allowing students to record and review their treatment of the patient during debriefing sessions.

“Johnson County has done a really excellent job setting this program up,” said Nathan Jones, student. “I know other people that are in different nursing programs and I tell them what we’re doing here and they go ‘Wow, you guys are doing that?'”

Carver said most nursing programs have some type of simulator or simulation in place, but what differentiates the college’s Healthcare Simulation Center from other schools is how the program has been integrated. She said the instructors work closely with the students from when they first arrive to when they graduate, whereas other facilities might not be as immersive.

“This is considered to be an environment that’s safe in the sense that we don’t evaluate their patient care directly,” she said. “It is really meant just for learning. I want to understand what the student is thinking, why they’re thinking that and if there’s some assumptions that are not correct, we need to bring that out so they can understand better.”

Since the Healthcare Simulation Center opened, the number of students admitted to the nursing program has increased from 55 to 64 students per year. Additionally, EMS and respiratory care students are able to make use of the simulators, extending the number of students using the center each semester to 220.

By the end of the program, Carver said she hopes students take away the understanding that working with simulators will be a part of their professional careers. She said any kind of healthcare facility will always now be using simulation to some level to validate that their medical practitioners are safe, current and that they can respond.

“Simulation allows [us] to be able to see people in action,” she said. “It’s not just taking a 50 point questionnaire; you get to see what people bring in terms of their strengths, how well they communicate and if they’re compassionate.”

Contact David Hurtado, features editor, at


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