Colorado nursing leaders and community partners recently gathered for an invitation-only summit hosted by the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence in Denver to explore high technology simulation within nursing education and practice as a method to explore critical issues surrounding the critical nursing workforce shortage facing Colorado.
The summit, which is one of several summits to be held throughout the state this year, gave educators and decision makers the opportunity to learn more about simulation technology and how it might help the education and training of medical professionals.
A simulator, according to the National Center for Simulation, is a device that uses sound and sights to make participants feel they are experiencing an actual situation. Officials at the Center said "simulations hold great potential for training people for almost any situation," and that "education researchers have determined that people, especially adults, learn better by experience rather than through reading and lectures."
Held at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, the summit included several nationally renowned speakers and local leaders who presented and discussed conceptual and practical issues with high technology simulation.
Following the speakers, participants in the summit were then able to experience and ask questions about three different simulation technologies during interactive sessions with three of the leading simulation corporations.
The three corporations that were present at the summit were Laderal Medical Corporation, Medical Education Technologies Inc. and Simulis.
"Simulation is where it is going," said Kristi Bannister of Medical Education Technologies Inc. "With the shortage of available clinicals, simulation technology can enhance and supplement clinicals."
Bannister was explaining the many things a METI simulator can do, which includes everything from a severe young asthmatic scenario to a simulation of a patient who has been stabbed in the chest.
As Bannister answered questions about the METI simulator, its chest continued to rise and fall as the air compressor simulated breathing and its eyes -- with pupils that had been changed to different sizes --continued to blink.
With a little extra set up time and some additional equipment, the METI simulator also can simulate trauma wounds, with blood flow, mucus and secreted fluids. The METI simulator also can have real-life reactions to chemical exposure.
The simulator looks realistic and, according to Bannister, becomes quite real when physicians and nurses are working on a simulated scenario. "They forget they’re working on a dummy," Bannister said. "They get really involved."
Nationally and worldwide, simulation technology is being used to help train medical professionals. They are being used by the armed forces, fire departments, colleges and even television shows. A METI simulator recently was used on the television show "ER" to demonstrate the new technology available.
The METI simulators also are made in a smaller model for pediatric use, which simulates some of the nuances of pediatric care that are not adequately represented on adult simulators.
According to Bannister, the new simulators are so advanced that they will physiologically react to medications administered during the simulations and can literally be suffocated with a pillow, but the idea of simulation in nursing is not necessarily a new idea.
"I think most people will tell you that nursing, forever, has used simulation," said Sue Carparelli, president and CEO of the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence. "Using an orange to teach immunizations is simulation, but what’s different about this is the high technology aspect of it and the interactivity of it -- not only does it give you the ability to practice a certain skill, but it gives you the opportunity to integrate all of the components, such as the technical components, the communication components and the ability to work as part of a team."
The cost of one of the base-model simulators is just less than $40,000, which includes everything that is needed to run the simulation, all the way down to the laptop computer. Whether this cost is effective in the training of medical staff is not yet completely clear, according to Carparelli, but she does see some key elements that would be important in streamlining.
"With this equipment, you also have the ability to collect data on objective measures," Carparelli said. "You then can become much more focused and specific about mastering our deficits and work to correct those in a far more focused way.
"We will never, ever fully substitute for the real life experiences of the clinical studies," Carparelli said. "We’ll always have to have that element in the educational process. What we need to learn more about is whether we will we need the same amount, and that’s where the concept and innovation come in."