Ridgewater College, with campuses located in Willmar and Hutchinson, is one of 33 higher education institutions included in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. The college offers a wide range of educational opportunities and aspires to ‘be a dynamic, educational leader, exemplifying innovation and excellence within a student-centered learning environment’. 

As part of the strategy to move closer to this mission, the college investigated simulation with a view to incorporate it into both classroom teaching and clinical time. Ridgewater has since experienced success in integrating simulation into the curriculum and the community. The Nursing Program has an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and AD Program (Associate Degree Nursing Program) with about 250 students per semester. 

The college’s early simulation experience followed a purchase of SimMan in 2002, which proved so popular that simulation training was added to all clinical rotations and into classroom and lab time. With a later addition of  SimNewB, Director of Simulation, Jeanne Cleary, BSN, MA, RN, decided, “Having done a lot of our own programming and running scenarios ‘on the fly’ , I wanted to learn how to run the pre-programmed scenarios. It is the only way I run her now – I love it”.


Partnerships in simulation

Ridgewater uses simulation in all semesters of their nursing program, having at least three simulation days each semester as part of the clinical experience. The Nursing program partners with area hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare agencies to provide education programs. Cleary claims that students get a variety of clinical opportunities in these healthcare settings and that they wanted to give something back. She continues, “We assisted one hospital with cross-training the nursing staff to a new Care Delivery System when combining Medical and Surgical units into one unit. We have had RPAP (Rural Physician Associate Program) come to the campus for hands-on training for complex patient training. We also take our simulators to the healthcare setting such as SimNewB for NRP and SimMan for ACLS training.”


‘Shock Days’

One of the major successes at Ridgewater is the Senior Nursing Experience. Cleary continues, “After finding gaps in our ATI testing scores,* scenarios were developed to fill that area of learning and now we have a ‘Shock Day’ that students rotate through. As a consequence, we have seen an increase in test scores.” Cleary points out that students noticed the difference making comments such as, “I know I did better on the test that we had the simulation experience on”.

Ridgewater now has state-of-the-art simulation centers on both campuses and training equipment currently includes: SimMan 3G (for the Mobile Simulation Unit), SimMan, SimBaby, SimNewB, a variety of VitalSim manikins and Virtual IV. 

Cleary sums up, “We feel strongly that simulation and the active learning process has helped our students think critically, problem-solve and prioritize patient care. While time varies among groups, all students meet the predetermined objectives of the scenarios. Students have risen to the challenge.  All of this helps them score better on tests and perform better clinically.”



  • Assessment Technology Institute