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January 18, 2018

HSC celebrates 10 years preparing registered nurse students for real-life emergencies

Julia Bilhimer wanted a balance between classroom instruction and hands-on learning in a registered nurse program. She chose Johnson County Community College, where she could gain valuable experience in the Healthcare Simulation Center (HSC).

The HSC (first floor, Classroom and Laboratory Building) opened in January 2008. In the 10 years that followed, students learned using patient simulators called manikins. While the simulators may look like store mannequins at first glance, they’re actually complex and computerized. They can exhibit many different symptoms as well as talk, blink and provide outputs like blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate.

“The Healthcare Simulation Center is really about students being active in their learning,” explained Kathy Carver, Professor of Nursing. “Simulation also helps students train as a team, since we don’t work alone in healthcare. Everyone has a role, and those roles must work together.”

Students make decisions

Bilhimer said the simulators at JCCC are “a wonderful learning tool.” In HSC the students are in charge, unlike in their clinical visits to local hospitals, where students are limited in what they can do by state laws and hospital policies.

“We are the nurses in that room. It is our responsibility to care appropriately for those patients: to make decisions about prioritizing patient care, to communicate and carry out nursing skills ourselves. We as students do it all instead of watching or shadowing a nurse,” Bilhimer said.

Carver said nearly all registered nurse programs have some form of simulation, but few are as realistic as the HSC. “The lighting, the rooms – to have one large center like this is definitely beneficial,” she said. The HSC can accommodate 24 students at a time, making it possible for entire classes to visit the center.

Simulation used across campus

The Healthcare Simulation Center has these simulators:

  • 3 adult males
  • 2 birthing mothers
  • 4 newborn babies
  • 1 1-year-old child
  • 2 5-year-old children

With the popularity of simulation for other medical programs, this list doesn’t represent JCCC’s full inventory. Simulators are also used in an ambulance mock-up in the Emergency Medical Science wing of the Science Building and for the Certified Nurse Aide and Licensed Practical Nurse programs at the Olathe Health Education Center.

‘You forget it’s not a real person’

“It’s strange explaining to someone that I am providing care for a manikin,” Bilhimer said. “But when you step in that room, your patient is talking to you – maybe even moaning and groaning. You can assess vital signs, heart and lung sounds, pulses. They can tell you if they are in pain, and somehow, you forget it’s not a real person. You are in the moment of, ‘What can I do to make this better?’ When you have the opportunity to experience something life-threatening and scary in Sim, you can carry that experience with you.”

Bilhimer said the JCCC simulation areas are so technologically advanced because the JCCC faculty and staff are progressive, providing a “safe and nonjudgmental environment that strengthens the learning potential.”

“We are often scared to death to walk into our scenarios,” she said. “We all try to guess: what crazy, anxiety-inducing symptom or side effect is my patient going to experience today? It’s like a thriller – you watch the movie and you’re certain you know who the murderer is but wait – plot twist! – I did not see that coming! But when we walk away at the end of the day, we feel successful.”

Learn more

If you’re interested in the selective-admission Registered Nurse program at JCCC, contact Karen LaMartina, Director of Nursing, at 913-469-8500, ext. 3141.

To find out more about the Healthcare Simulation Center or the annual Healthcare Simulation Conference held each September at JCCC, contact Carver at 913-469-8500, ext. 3895.