When its new building opens in December 2009, Florida International University College of Nursing & Health Sciences (FIU CNHS) will introduce one of the region’s most technologically advanced and innovative approaches in healthcare education to the learning landscape when it unveils the third floor Simulation Center (SimCenter).

The SimCenter exemplifies an innovative, modular approach to interactive instruction and education. It is comprised of a collection of specialized laboratories that can be used individually or combined in a variety of ways for students across the healthcare spectrum to learn under different real-life, real-time scenarios, from emergency/trauma response to rehabilitative care.

Healthcare education is no longer about separating each student into their specific curriculum and teaching them to perform a particular skill, but to let them develop those skills in ways they are most likely to encounter in the work place. That means interacting with patients in various settings, as part of a complete healthcare team. Through the SimCenter, graduates can apply what they’ve learned directly into real-world application in any working environment on a much faster learning curve than ever before.

The SimCenter will emphasize nursing and critical care instruction. It will feature state-of-the-art equipment and tools for hands-on use by students, technology for enhanced clinical and critical thinking, and cutting-edge simulation, digital imaging projections system, and web-based technologies.

The components, or “modules” of the SimCenter include:

  • Simulation Rooms: Eight true-to-life, individual patient hospital rooms, including high-tech simulated patient mannequins of various races (which will help in the development of culturally-competent nursing practices), and the full complement of diagnostic equipment.
  • Control Rooms: From these three rooms, instructors can run various computerized patient care scenarios to the eight simulation rooms (individually, as a group, or a combination thereof), monitor students’ progress through closed circuit TV or personal supervision, and receive and analyze results fed back to the control room.
  • Basic Nursing Skills Laboratory: A real-size mock—up of a critical care ward with 14 adjoining patient areas laid out around a central nurses station.
  • Debriefing Rooms: Two conference rooms where instructors and students can review and discuss the outcomes of the day’s simulations and address areas for improvement.

Each of these modules can be separated or combined to accomplish the instructor’s specific teaching objectives. For example, while one set of labs is being used to instruct first-year students on basic nursing skills, concurrently another set of labs can be employed by nurse practitioner students working to develop their critical thinking and diagnosis skills. There is even the opportunity to utilize all modules simultaneously and generate an “all hands” mass—casualty emergency situation that involves various classes of students, each developing their particular capabilities, yet working interactively with others to achieve the desired patient outcomes.

The SimCenter will be the latest achievement in FIU’s efforts to enhance nursing and healthcare education through technology. All undergraduate nursing students must carry PDAs in order to access information that will become integral to their education (such as the latest findings from evidenced-based practice reports). Real-time, videoconferencing has delivered the Anesthesiology Nursing Program to students in Jacksonville, and the Foreign-Educated MD-to-RN program to students in Tampa and Orlando. The Anesthesiology Nursing Program students must have laptop PCs in the classroom in order to run simulation scenario software at the College’s on-site mock operating room lab. And FIU’s RN-to-BSN track has been converted exclusively to an online program, utilizing long distance education technology and a comprehensive online curriculum (including Web CT) so that working RNs can conveniently pursue part-time or full-time study of their BSN degree.