WTC shows off nursing simulation lab upgrade

Withlacoochee Technical College’s nursing simulation lab got a noisy upgrade.

A tablet and headset, called a SimPad, is compatible with several of the lab’s mannequin “patients” — allowing an instructor to speak through the patient’s mouth to respond to questions but also to yell, cry and scream. The system also allows an instructor to hear students communicate as they work.

“This allows the instructor to not even be in the room, so the students can think on their own, which is really what we want,” said nursing instructor Sarah Dillard, demonstrating the technology during an open house on

Feb. 8. “We’re not going to be there with them when they get their license and they’re working. They have to be able to be independent. This allows us to move out and allows them to become the nurse. They have to use all their skills and put it in motion here, and that’s what we like about the SimPad — we don’t even have to be in the room.”

Before the SimPad, instructors had to be in the room with students while they worked to save a patient to observe the skills they were practicing and how they communicated with the patient and each other.

“The difference between last year and this year is night and day. I would be in the room and students would be looking at me and I would be making a facial expression that had nothing to do with what they were doing, but they’d base their actions on what I was looking at and what my face was saying,” said instructor Melinda Dvorsky. “Now, I’m in there or in the other room, and I’ll be able to see them — but they’re so focused on the patient.”

The simulation lab experience isn’t just about the patient — other aspects of working in a hospital environment are highlighted, too.

A textbook provides scripted scenarios, with roles for several students working on a single patient. One or two students may be assigned the role of a patient’s parent. “The patient is not the whole picture,” Dvorsky said. “They have to learn how to interact.”

Communication with other medical professionals is critical as well. Clinicals, in which students shadow nurses in hospitals, give valuable learning experiences — but students can’t be part of real procedures.

“In clinicals, they don’t get that close as students. They’re not making critical decisions,” Dvorsky explained. “Then there’s other skills — like calling a doctor on the phone. Students are not allowed to go anywhere near a phone to call a doctor. But here we have a phone at the nursing statioan and we have a phone in the other room — they pick up the phone, they call the doctor, they get orders, they ask. They have to have those soft skills that they’ll need, and that’s one thing they can’t do in the hospital.”

WTC offers Practical Nursing, Patient Care Assistant, and Medical Administrative Specialist programs. For more information, visit www.wtcollege.org or call 352-726-2430.

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