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Access to simulation training could be a game-changer for nurses and other healthcare workers in rural Iowa, where training and continuing education (CE) has long been an ordeal. A nurse in the Iowa heartland may have to drive hundreds of miles to learn new techniques at a distant city hospital. Fortunately, healthcare workers in the state’s more thinly populated areas will soon be able to hone their skills thanks to a new $8 million dollar grant through the University of Iowa College of Nursing.
The grant money is coming from the rural healthcare program at the Helmsley Charitable Trust, which has donated millions to underserved rural areas since 2009. The program covers eight states: South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, and now Iowa. Walter Panzirer, a trust representative, said their aim is to build a sustainable, long-term simulation program to support health care providers’ continuing education in these states: “We hope to improve quality outcomes because the more you can train on something, the better the outcomes will be.”
According to the Daily Iowan, the grant will help launch the Simulation in Motion (SIM) project in Iowa. The SIM project, founded seven years ago by a group of South Dakota healthcare providers, spearheads the development of simulation training programs in midwestern states to help rural HCPs keep their skills fresh and learn how to implement new techniques and treatments for unusual conditions. The U Iowa College of Nursing is using the funds to invest in three mobile training units designed to look like emergency departments and ambulances. The ED/ambulance units will be equipped with patient simulators, medical equipment, and educators to conduct the training. Inside the trucks, educators will train students and local HCPs on the simulators, which have human-like anatomies that can mimic a range of conditions and complications.
Jacinda Bunch, the co-director of SIM – Iowa, notes that “Some emergency situations are not seen very often, and it’s hard to keep up on those skills and remember everything you should do.” Bringing the simulations to these areas helps rural health care providers train closer to home so they do not have to engage in lengthy, expensive commutes to city hospitals to develop these skills. Bunch remarked that for rural HCPs months or even years can pass without encountering certain medical situations, and when such situations do arise, rusty or outdated skills can result in worse outcomes.
The opportunity to work with simulations is a boon for nurses and other practitioners in Iowa’s remote parts, says Cormac O’Sullivan, clinical associate professor of nursing and co-director of SIM – Iowa. “Health care providers really remember what to do when they do simulations. As the students and providers practice, they become more comfortable in the scenario and more open to learning and retaining it better.”
For a look at an SIM mobile education unit in action, see this story: SIM-ND brings real-life training to rural areas.
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