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October 1, 2013

Blinn health science students gain hands-on experience at College’s simulation labs

23,000-square foot facility allows students to simulate treatment for variety of medical crises

Anne is a high-fidelity simulation mannequinAnne may be the most understanding patient in the history of medicine.

Each day, she is poked and prodded as Blinn College Health Science students check her heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. She constantly suffers from one ailment or another, but when a student makes a mistake she leaves the constructive criticism to an instructor.

After all, Anne is a high-fidelity simulation mannequin, and it’s her job to help train the next generation of healthcare providers.

“Anything that can be done in a hospital with a real patient, we can see with our simulators,” said Bretnie Brantley, a second-year associate degree nursing student. “We’re given every opportunity to practice without making real mistakes.”

The simulators are key to Blinn’s Simulation and Clinical Labs area, a 23,000-square foot facility located on the second floor of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Clinical Building I in Bryan. The labs allow associate degree nursing, vocational nursing, physical therapy assistant, radiologic technology and emergency medical services (EMS) students to simulate myriad scenarios in a variety of hospital and outpatient settings.

The facility includes an EMS lab with an ambulance simulator, two operating rooms with attached scrub areas, six high-fidelity intensive care unit rooms, 16 mid-fidelity private hospital rooms, six low fidelity private hospital rooms, a physical therapy lab, two radiologic technology x-ray suites, a virtual IV training room, a home setting and an outpatient clinical space.

Student performing CPRSimulations Director Sami Rahman first began to recognize the possibility of such facilities when she attended an associate degree nursing faculty conference in 2006.

“It was like a whole world opened up,” she said. “I discovered that a lot of schools were seeing the same challenges we were here with limited access to clinical space, especially in specialties such as pediatrics, obstetrics or mental health.”

Blinn purchased six medium-fidelity mannequins in 2007, but its simulation capabilities began to truly expand in 2011, when the College’s Health Sciences division moved into the Health Science Center and a pair of grants allowed Blinn to purchase the centerpiece of the lab experience – the simulators.

Bringing an unprecedented degree of realism to healthcare education, the mannequin simulators breathe, cry, give birth and are programmed to respond physiologically to their interactions, allowing students to respond to a broad range of traumas and injuries.

“Simulation allows faculty to evaluate the students’ ability to critically and clinically think through what needs to be done and prioritize,” Rahman said. “If you make a mistake here, we can talk about it.”

The labs include 32 video cameras, allowing faculty to film student exercises, then watch that film alongside the student.

“We learn something new every time we go into a simulation and our instructors are there to give immediate feedback,” Brantley said.

The simulation lab allows students the opportunity to practice rare and critical events in a safe, controlled environment without risk to patients, and Rahman said many students benefit from the opportunity to learn through first-hand experience. The opportunity for team training also strengthens students’ collaboration and communication skills.

“We’ve shown them that this is a safe place for students to practice and challenge themselves,” Rahman said.

Hospitals and other healthcare institutions are recognizing the benefits as well, as the industry begins to utilize simulations for medical licensing and recertification exams across the country. In November, Blinn is sending a team to the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing annual convention to describe the way in which Blinn faculty utilizes the simulation labs.

Blinn’s Division of Health Sciences, based at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, offers associate degree nursing, dental hygiene, emergency medical services, physical therapist assistant, radiologic technology, fire science, therapeutics manufacturing, veterinary technology and vocational nursing programs designed to quickly train students for high-demand professions. For more information, visit: