Darton College of Nursing is a progressive training institution which has recently enjoyed a record enrollment of 5,854 students (2008) from 28 states and 44 countries. Although this number represents a remarkable 78% increased student intake since 2,000, the college has an ambition to increase enrollment capacity significantly over the next 10 years.

The Associate Degree Program in Nursing at Darton College is a five semester program to prepare the graduate to perform as a nurse in first-level staff positions in hospitals and comparable agencies. Already with a high training workload which is set to increase in line with expansion plans, the college’s need to optimize training time became increasingly apparent. Consequently, auxiliary training methods compatible to curricula requirements were considered.

Trying to make time

Simulation training was one such solution and while the college purchased a SimMan patient simulator back in 2004, its use was short lived owing to the loss of the appointed member of staff. This changed when Tracy Suber (MSN, RN) stepped into the role. Coordinator of the ‘Bridge Program’ at the college, which assists LPN’s and Paramedics in achieving their Associate Degree in 15 months, Tracy was interested in the possibilities of simulation training. Following attendance to a SimMan Introductory Training course with a colleague, Kristie Smith, in 2007, both set out to demonstrate to faculty how simulation might support their curriculum.

While faculty support was there in principle, the biggest obstacle was the time needed to develop first rate clinical scenarios. Suber said, “As a nurse educator, it’s difficult to find the time to prepare for lectures, adequately advise, or just be accessible to the students….. finding the time to develop scenarios was difficult.”

A ready-made solution

This obstacle was negated by the introduction of the National League for Nursing Scenario package for SimMan developed by the NLN and Laerdal. As Suber recognized, “I knew if the NLN had a hand in this, they would be great for use in the nursing curriculum.”

The Simulation in Nursing Education Scenarios package has been specifically designed for nurse educators. 10 surgical and 10 medical pre-configured scenarios challenge students at different levels, with cases ranging from obtaining vital signs through to recognizing and managing life-threatening complications.

While observing that the scenarios have greatly enhanced training, Suber also points out, “The NLN scenarios have decreased the workload for me as an educator. I can utilize the doctor’s order pages, gather the appropriate equipment, etc and go to work.”

Planning ahead

Suber plans to expand the use of simulation throughout the college and to make improvements to the lab. Optimistic about simulation being used more widely and the positive effects this will have on future healthcare providers, Suber concludes, “The State of Georgia has not decided an actual number of hours or a percentage that we can count simulation toward clinical hours, but we do know that this is being looked into. Research shows that simulation can be very effective and I believe with a decrease in allocated clinical spaces and an increase in enrollment numbers, it will become a very necessary part of our curriculum in time.”