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School of Nursing Receives Grant to Increase Clinical Learning Experiences

Posted: Feb. 19, 2015

Dr. Linda Carpenter

Dr. Leigh Goldstein

The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has received a $150,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) under the Nursing Innovation Grant Program: Building Lab and Simulation Capacity. Linda Carpenter, associate professor of clinical nursing, and Leigh Goldstein, assistant professor of clinical nursing, are the primary investigators for the grant.

The grant program seeks to encourage the development and expansion of nursing skills and simulation lab capacity. The overall goal is to shift clinical hours from traditional patient care clinical situations to lab and simulation activities, and ideally, to reduce the total number of contact hours of clinical instruction in patient care areas in the initial RN licensure program.

“Our goal is to teach students to think like nurses,” Dr. Carpenter said. “The THECB recognizes the importance of expanding quality simulations to replace some clinical hours in traditional patient care areas. They awarded these funds to help us develop innovations to give students opportunities to practice this thinking and also prepare the faculty. Implementing a simulation training and orientation program for faculty is an important part of the project.”

The UT Austin School of Nursing features a simulated hospital setting — a sophisticated learning environment where students develop competencies in multiple simulated health care settings that cross the human life span. The lab is home to a variety of manikin “patients” ranging in age from infant to adult exhibiting a variety of physical ailments and conditions. This range of experience is difficult to guarantee in outside clinical settings.

“Opportunities for students to obtain clinical hours have decreased recently because of a growing number of nursing schools in our area,” Dr. Goldstein said. “The problem is compounded by the fact that even when working in actual clinical settings, student nurses often aren’t exposed to a variety of clinical experiences and so can’t perfect those skills.”

For instance, students may be on site for several weeks on a maternity ward only to miss out on the actual delivery. Such events are beyond control in the “real world,” but can be recreated in a simulation lab, Goldstein added. For that reason, one focus of the grant will target development of simulations specifically for maternity courses.

“One part of the grant will provide for an expansion of ‘Hospital Simulation Day,’ during which nursing students learn to react to various scenarios with other students role-playing patients,” Dr. Carpenter added. “These activities give more students an opportunity to practice in a realistic situation in the safe and supportive environment of the simulation lab.”

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