National Nurses Week: Simulation labs key to students' education

two nursing students stand at the bedside of a sim patient in the lab
Nursing students learn to conduct a patient exam during a simulation exercise in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences.
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

A cornerstone of Grand Valley's nursing education is simulation, allowing students to learn skills in a lab setting using high-tech mannequins or standardized patients. 

The Kirkhof College of Nursing simulation team adapted simulations labs during the COVID-19 pandemic and said flexibility and creativity were keys to making them successful.

Deborah Bambini, professor of nursing, has served as simulation coordinator for KCON since 2006. Bambini said pandemic restrictions led to smaller groups of students rotating through in-person and virtual simulations.

Sherri Fannon, assistant professor of nursing, said the simulation team found advantages through adaptation, including individual student debriefing sessions rather than as a class.

"It gave students true closure following a simulation exercise," Fannon said. "We had time with each student individually to reflect and ask additional questions."

nursing faculty member in white coat talks to a student in blue scrub shirt
Sherri Fannon, assistant professor of nursing, talks with a student.
Valerie Hendrickson
seated, a nursing faculty member talks to two students in blue scrub shirts
Deborah Bambini, professor of nursing, talks with students following a simulation exercise.
Kendra Stanley-Mills

One interdisciplinary simulation had Grand Valley nursing and physical therapy students teamed with physician and pharmacy students from, respectively, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Ferris State University. Teams then conducted a home visit with a standardized patient, who was trained to portray a patient with a lung disease.

Bambini said when the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health opens for students, the simulation space will more than double. "The new building will provide space for 24 standardized patient rooms and 10 hospital rooms," she said.

Bambini, who joined Grand Valley's faculty in 1993, will retire before the DCIH opens. Fannon, who had worked at the MSU CHM Simulation Center, will lead the KCON simulation team with Christina Quick, assistant professor of nursing.

"We have a very inventive faculty simulation team and putting our heads together as a team has advantages," Fannon said. "We are supported by KCON leadership and the Simulation Center staff to give the best virtual and in-person experiences we can, and students are meeting competency requirements demonstrating they're ready to move to another semester."