The Experiential Learning and Simulation Center at Samford University is set to become the second fully accredited simulation center in Alabama. The center received provisional accreditation in November and in two years will apply for full accreditation. UAB is the only other accredited center in the state.
Achieving accreditation is optional, and therefore not common, but it is even rarer for a new center. The Samford simulation center opened in 2016.
"When we began planning the center, we laid out our strategic plan, and we wanted to make sure we based everything on evidence-based practice," said Jill Pence, executive director of the College of Health Sciences Experiential Learning and Simulation Center and associate professor at the Ida Moffett School of Nursing. "So we began with the standards of the accrediting body, the Society of Simulation in Healthcare. We always had the long term vision of seeking accreditation."
Even before reaching the accreditation milestone, the Samford center sought to be a standout in other ways. For instance, it serves the entire College of Health Sciences: School of Health Professions, Ida Moffett School of Nursing, McWhorter School of Pharmacy, and School of Public Health.
"We are able to practice with multiple disciplines in the same place," Pence said. "The College of Health Sciences moved into these buildings in 2017, so that our students and faculty would be not only be practicing together, but also teaching, working alongside, and learning with all the healthcare disciplines that are under the umbrella of the college. Our center allows students to practice together in one place."
Paid professionals play the roles of patients and family members. The center also has an extensive inventory of healthcare manikins, including task trainers, medium fidelity models and high fidelity human patient simulators.
"We have multiple events each semester that involve three and four disciplines," Pence said. "You may have nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and social work all working within a simulation. We have large-scale events once a semester. In the fall, we turn the entire center into a working hospital for a few days, and all the disciplines participate together. They are assigned patients and they work as a team to develop plans of care, medication regimens, and treatments.
"Communication with everyone, from patients and family to team members, is emphasized as well as medical skills. Communication helps prevent medical errors, helps students get the education they need, and keeps them from getting frustrated and leaving. It's the foundation, so we start students out early, with the simple actions like introducing themselves, making eye contact, and actively listening. Those are skills that have to be developed."
The Center will be eligible to apply for full accreditation after maintaining their provisional accreditation for two years. "It's a pretty significant accomplishment for a Center that is only in its third year of operation," Pence said. "The process is relatively new. Because simulation has taken such a forefront in education as well as practice for healthcare providers, it's been important to develop standards. That's what the accreditation process grew out of. Stakeholders such as investors, the community at large, and employers need to know we are meeting standards."
Pence said the Simulation Center gives students confidence and better prepares them for employment upon graduation. "When students actively do the work, the learning becomes more concrete and helps to ingrain the best practices. Simulation gives the students the ability to think critically, make decisions, and act on them - whether they are right or wrong - before they ever get out of a controlled environment. Having a student who has come through a rigorous simulation program should be the beacon for who you want to practice with. Just having been through simulation doesn't mean it is rigorous, standard-based program with high expectations. Knowing that a student is coming with the skills our students are coming with is a significant advantage.
"Employers look to see what kind of preparation our students have. Our focus is to make sure we are giving them the highest level of education they deserve, producing the best graduates possible, and giving their future patients the most competent healthcare provider. There is so much evidence that simulations help patient safety outcomes. That's the goal."
Multiple disciplines working together on a simulated code. A Doctor of Physical Therapy student does chest compressions on a task trainer while nursing and pharmacy students look on.
Undergraduate nursing students working with a high fidelity manikin.