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In collaboration with the University of New Brunswick, Humber College has proudly offered a Bachelor of Nursing degree program since 2001. In 2005-2006, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care invested $20 million to improve nursing education through the use of simulation technology.  Humber was successful in securing significant funding and chose to work with Laerdal Medical to enhance its existing simulation lab.  In addition to using numerous high-fidelity patient simulators, Humber has become Laerdal’s largest user of pre-programmed simulation scenarios in the world.  The partnership with Laerdal has resulted in the School of Health Sciences purchasing 212 pre-programmed scenarios.

“Many schools have chosen to design and use their own scenarios,” explains Sandra Cop, Clinical Co-ordinator and Nursing Professor at Humber. “We use scenarios developed by Laerdal and their partners because we know they’ve been tested for reliability and validity. This consistency helps give our students the best possible learning environment, and was a high priority for the School”
It’s not just nursing students who use Humber’s simulation lab, although they do make up the majority of the lab’s users. Students in the college’s Practical Nursing, Personal Support Worker, Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant, Pharmacy Technician and Paramedic programs all take advantage of the opportunities to master skills before working with real patients. All learners are able to translate the theoretical knowledge into practice in the simulation lab prior to or during their clinical placements, which provides opportunities for knowledge synthesis.

“These experiential learning opportunities replicate the practice environments that learners enrolled in our health sciences programs will be exposed to when they transition from education to practice,” says Jason Powell, Dean of Humber’s School of Health Sciences and himself a graduate of Humber’s nursing program. “That’s extremely important, because not only is the patient safety agenda far more advanced now than in the past, but employers are demanding that our graduates be job-ready almost immediately.”

Students in the sim lab practice basic skills such as catheterization, injections and patient movement, then move on to programmed scenarios with high-fidelity patient simulators.

The scenarios purchased vary in complexity. Scenarios allow students to practice a wide variety of clinical, critical thinking and decision-making skills, which help prepare them for clinical practice.

“The students learn skill mastery, critical thinking and the psychological aspects of providing care” says Sonia Deleo, the School of Health Science’s Clinical Simulation Technologist. “It goes way beyond basic care to dealing with complex families, lab results, managing the transition from paramedic to nurses, dealing with change-of-shift reports and consulting other professionals required for these scenarios. Many of our students have the opportunity to engage in interprofessional scenarios, which enhances learning and mirrors a practice environment.”

According to Pavneet Singh, a third-year student in Humber’s Bachelor of Nursing program, which is offered collaboratively with the University of New Brunswick, the experience in the sim lab has made him far more comfortable when completing his clinical placements.

“I’ve used them to learn skill mastery like wound care, and to listen to what bronchitis sounds like in the lungs,” he says. “Working with the simulators means I’m much more confident working with real patients – and also means I can concentrate on creating a therapeutic relationship, rather than ignoring a patient because I’m worried about giving an injection.”

“We can ensure that students see scenarios they might not experience during placements,” says Cop. “As well, using the scenarios means we can evaluate our learners more effectively and consistently, with clear learning outcomes. It really is an integral part of health care education.”

Further, from Cop’s perspective, simulators are an essential tool to help health care students improve critical thinking and how to respond or take action in various clinical settings.

“The military runs simulated training exercises, pilots fly in simulators before they ever get into a plane, truck drivers and firefighters all work with simulators,” she says. “We’re just doing something that is consistent with other industries – and better patient care is the result.”