Gift and foundation grants to benefit Fairfield University School of Nursing's Learning Resource Center


The McKeen Fund has awarded Fairfield University a $100,000 gift to support the Learning Resource Center in the School of Nursing. The University also has received foundation grants for the Center from the Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Foundation ($10,000), and the Gladys Brooks Foundation ($10,000).

The Learning Resource Center allows nursing students to practice and master a variety of skills prior to using them in a live clinical setting. In a simulated hospital environment, students are able to learn and practice basic to advanced nursing skills using state-of-the-art medical equipment, simulators, and practice modules while augmenting their knowledge and skills with audio-visual materials. The Center's state-of-the-art classrooms and lab provide a teaching environment where students can learn the physiologic components of patient care, equipment knowledge, safety and technical skills, and the communication, leadership, and teamwork skills necessary to deliver exceptional health care.

The idea behind the Center is for students to practice evidence –based nursing care in a risk-free, hands-on environment and enhance their self-confidence and performance for when they are working with actual patients.

Among the many assets at the Center is the human patient simulator, a teaching tool which is a robotic mannequin that breathes, has pulses, heart sounds, breath sounds and can talk and react to stimuli as controlled by a computer program and by faculty and Center staff. In turn, students develop a variety of hands-on skills from this robotic patient, such as taking pulses and blood pressures, and listening to heart and lung sounds. Students also learn to administer patient medication, and read monitors to assess patient oxygen levels, cardiac rhythms and other key levels.

A special simulation room helps nursing students learn how to deal with healthcare situations with a "patient" and "family."

Faculty, students, and staff take on different roles to act out scenarios that students may face - including distraught family member, primary practitioner, or co-worker. It is monitored via a control room where faculty and staff sit behind double mirror glass windows. The action in this special simulation room can be projected live into classrooms where students can observe, learn, and create their own care plans. These simulation scenarios enable students to develop their communication, delegation, and critical thinking skills.

Jeanne M. Novotny, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Dean of the School of Nursing, said the gift and grants allow for enhanced student learning experiences. "Simulation-based teaching allows students to strengthen their nursing, critical thinking, and communication skills in an environment that provides opportunities for complex learning experiences. This means that graduates will be better prepared to bring a high level of competence and knowledge to the point of patient care in a wide variety of nursing roles and clinical settings."

The gift from the McKeen Fund is specifically earmarked for faculty and curriculum development, which is being done in collaboration with Fairfield University's Center for Academic Excellence. The nursing faculty will form one of the first Faculty Learning Communities with eight participants this spring. These participants will attend bi-weekly meetings and work together to redesign courses that incorporate the rich resources available in the lab and classrooms.

Suzanne Campbell, Ph. D., assistant professor of nursing and the project director, said the funding for faculty development will allow for continued learning, the opportunity to attend more workshops and conferences, as well as time to integrate simulation focused pedagogy into the whole nursing curriculum. "Ultimately, this is all about the School of Nursing's continued efforts to develop innovative methods to educate our students to meet the demands of health care in the 21st Century."

The McKeen Fund has been supportive of the University, giving two grants totaling $51,000 in 2005 supporting the establishment of the annual School of Nursing lecture series and the launch of the School of Nursing Advisory Board.

The Advisory Board, a development focused leadership group, has been instrumental in raising funds for the Center.

Nancy Lynch, P'95, chair of the School of Nursing Advisory Board, said the Learning Resource Center is changing the way the School of Nursing teaches and nursing students learn. "It's up close and personal teaching. The skills that students learn there take a lot of the initial guesswork out of treating patients. The better education we can give our students, the better for them in their positions as nurse professionals as well as hospitals, and the better for Fairfield University."

Dr. Campbell said the School of Nursing faculty is grateful for all the support given to them by the Advisory Board and University administration. "They recognized our need and were active participants in creating the dream, vision, and reality of this 21st Century Learning Resource Center. The leadership of Dean Novotny has made the difference in how quickly this project has come to fruition."

Last year, the Center began undergoing a major expansion and enhancement project that will further integrate simulation-based teaching throughout the nursing curriculum.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 22, 2007

Vol. 39, No. 189