Nursing students gather around a simulated patient.

BYU-Idaho has developed an incredible state of the art simulation suite for students in the Department of Nursing. Due to findings of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, regarding the effectiveness of simulated clinical hours for student nurses, nursing students across the nation will be able to utilize more simulation opportunities as part of their practical clinical hour requirements. The new findings of the NCSBN show that up to 50 percent of clinical time spent in simulation scenarios is as effective as being in an actual hospital with real patients.

With the support of the school administration, the new simulation suite was promptly brought to fruition. The plans for the suite were started about a year ago, with work commencing at the beginning of summer 2015. The task to develop and finish the suite was completed by the end of summer, in-time for Fall Semester 2015.

"A lot of work was done in a short period of time. It really lets us know how supportive administration is of this venture," said Linda Orchard, Department of Nursing faculty member.

The simulation suite  is located on the third floor of the John L. Clarke Building, and consists of several replica hospital rooms, as well as debriefing rooms where students can meet together with faculty to utilize the learning model. Each simulation room is monitored with cameras and sound equipment that allow students and faculty in the adjacent debriefing rooms to observe and critique the students undertaking simulation scenarios. The debriefing rooms are equipped with televisions and special video recording equipment that enables students to more fully critique one another and provide feedback.

"This is hugely beneficial to students as it creates a safe environment to learn. They can come to the lab and make mistakes, and we let them," Orchard said. "The big part of the simulation experience is the debriefing, that occurs directly after their time in the simulation lab where students can work together and identify what was done well, what could be improved or done differently." Each clinical group consists of eight students that work together during the simulation experience. Each simulation is done in twos with the other six students observing and critiquing their peers. Debriefing typically takes almost double the time of the practical experience and is where the majority of optimal learning is achieved.

"It's the students that reflect back and identify to each other what they have seen and learned from their experience inside and outside the lab. The students are able to see a lot of things while they were debriefing that they may not notice by themselves," Orchard said. "If you have an organized observational experience for the students they learn as well as the ones in the simulation itself."

Students within the nursing program will still complete half of their clinical hours at local hospitals and clinics; however, the benefits that come from simulation exercises will provide them with a unique opportunity to utilize the learning model and develop confidence in a safe environment.

"Students will still have their hospital days, but we hope by giving them experiences here at the simulation lab that it's a richer experience when they go to the hospital," Orchard said. 

"We want them to have more confidence while they're at the hospital," Orchard said.

Another significant benefit from the allowance of increased clinical hours in simulation is the opportunity to admit more students into the nursing program. Entry to the program is incredibly competitive with around 200 student applicants per semester competing for approximately 40 spots. The new rules regarding clinical hours means that the number of students accepted into the program can potentially almost double.

The new simulation suite not only serves as a proving ground and place to develop proficiency for nurses, but also students from the Department of Theater. In an attempt to enhance the simulation experience, Orchard reached out to a number of theater students to fulfill the roles of standardized patients. This remarkable opportunity allows theater majors, and other students with an affinity for acting to act in lieu of real patients. Students are given the task of learning their lines and knowing the symptoms and behaviors associated with their rehearsed sickness. This allows the nursing students to practice their bedside manner, and respond to real people enabling as much realism as possible. Students may also play the role of a loved one. 

"I love the fact that the theater students have been willing to get involved, as I believe it gives them great experience and one more avenue for them to explore in their careers," Orchard said.