Return to the Sim Center

How do you safely re-open lab offerings for students and faculty during a pandemic? That was the challenge Jocelyn Ludlow, director of the Simulation Center (Sim Center) at the UW School of Nursing, and her staff faced this summer.

“Simulation is all about a safe learning environment,” said Ludlow. “In my years as a simulation educator, I have always taken that very seriously.”

The Sim Center is located in the T-wing of the Health Sciences building on the UW campus and was designed to provide a safe, supportive and controlled environment for nursing students to practice skills, role-play patient care scenarios, and gain leadership experience in clinical- and community-based care settings.  The Sim Center was recently renovated and expanded with funds from the State of Washington and generous donors. The 19,000 square foot, state-of-the art facility provides a space for students to build on what they are learning in their didactic courses.

The Sim Center protocols for in-person instruction during the coronavirus pandemic had to meet stringent safety standards laid out by the school, university, and state, as well as community best practices in simulation center operations, higher education, and public health.

“You need to know your resources, at the organizational, institution and national level,” she said. “And then you have to expect the best, but plan for the worst.”

Collaboration with faculty was crucial. Sim Center staff met with faculty (virtually) to conduct remote simulations, review physical assessment check lists and contact tracing, and more.

“Part of the ‘safe return’ guidelines included updating occupancy restrictions that required collaboration to determine what activities could be conducted safely,” said Keondra Rustan, Assistant Director of the Sim Center. “And to ensure that appropriate PPE is provided to all faculty and students who enter the facility for each type of activity being conducted.”

So far, the Sim Center labs have been running successfully – and safely – for almost a month and interest among Ludlow and Rustan’s peers in how to safely return to in-person simulation labs and instruction is high.

Ludlow has been sharing the best practices, requirements, and lessons learned from the UW School of Nursing Sim Center, with her colleagues, including those with the Pacific Northwest Healthcare Simulation Collaborative.

“The reason the planning and preparation is so important is because we have a responsibility to keep our entire community safe,” she said. “Not just the students and faculty, but the communities they go home to or work with away from campus.”

Learn more about how the UW School of Nursing is working for a safe return to school, work and research.

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