Federal grant will help Fairfield University's School of Nursing prepare students for real-life experiences in the operating room by way of a mock OR



Image: Sim patient for SONFairfield University's School of Nursing has been awarded one of its largest federal grants ever.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) award, worth $446,856, will fund a new, state-of-the-art mock operating room for graduate students enrolled in the university's Master of Science and Doctor of Nursing Practice in Nurse Anesthesia programs, which are offered in conjunction with Bridgeport Hospital and Bridgeport Anesthesia Associates. The initiative - the "Comprehensive Anesthesia Training Through Simulation (CATTS) Project" - will prepare students for real-life experiences in the operating room by way of an anesthesia simulation laboratory. Its endeavors will also benefit surgical patient care, area certified registered nurse anesthetists and students from Harding Medical Magnet High School in Bridgeport.

Nancy A. Moriber, Ph.D., CRNA, APRN, Fairfield's nurse anesthesia program track coordinator, is the project director. "As part of the grant, we will be designing a mock operating room equipped with high fidelity, computerized adult and pediatric patient simulators, so that the nurse anesthesia students will be able to develop their skills in increasingly more complex patient care situations," she said.

The facility will be located on the Fairfield campus, within the School of Nursing Robin Kanarek '96 Learning Resource Center that houses the latest medical equipment, simulators, practice modules, and audio-visual materials. There, within the safe confines of this simulated hospital environment, nurse anesthetist students can learn risk free before going out to care for real patients in clinical rotations.

"We will be ordering new, specialized equipment, including an anesthesia machine and simulation mannequins SimBaby and VitalSim, which will be added to the existing adult patient simulators and will stand in for anesthesia patients from infants to the elderly," said Suzanne Hetzel Campbell Ph.D., WHNP-BC, IBCLC, dean of the School of Nursing. "Nancy wrote a superb grant proposal, knowing full well how beneficial this project would be for the School of Nursing curriculum."

The CATTS project will lead to a new comprehensive Anesthesia Crisis Resource Management (aCRM) component within the nurse anesthesia program curriculum that links this specialty practice program with the simulation-focused pedagogy adapted by the School of Nursing. Simulation learning exposes Fairfield's undergraduate and graduate students to challenging and even rare situations infrequently seen in clinical practice. Fairfield's patient simulators, or mannequins, used in simulation learning are sophisticated learning tools that typically cost in the five to six figure range which bleed, breathe, sweat, talk and suffer life threatening ailments, for instance.

Under the guidance of faculty in the simulated operating room, Fairfield students can develop the critical thinking and decision-making skills essential to the provision of quality anesthesia care. "Nurse Anesthesia students will be exposed to scenarios and health care situations seldom encountered during training but whose mastery is essential for the provision of safe and effective care post-graduation," said Dr. Moriber.

In addition to enhancing the education and training of students enrolled in the nurse anesthesia program, the CATTS project will reach out to the greater Bridgeport community during the second year by providing experiential educational opportunities for secondary school children. This endeavor, to be called "Kids into Health Careers," will be done in conjunction with the Southwestern Connecticut Area Health Education Center (SWAHEC) and Harding Medical Magnet High School.

"This project includes a diversity-based component in the community in order to encourage students from underserved populations to become interested in healthcare professions," Dr. Campbell explained.

The program will further address the needs of underserved populations by providing continuing education and certificate opportunities to certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) practicing in the community. These efforts aim to increase skills and eliminate healthcare disparities in greater Bridgeport.

Two separate HRSA grants, totaling more than $43,000, will help fund tuition assistance and books for both nurse anesthesia and other graduate student nurses. The funds are awarded to students with priority to those working in underserved health provider areas.

For more information, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/son/dnp_index.html

Image: Students Jacqueline Rotondi, left, and Francine Kuhlor in the Fairfield University School of Nursing Robin Kanarek '96 Learning Resource Center, which will soon feature a state-of-the-art mock operating room, thanks to a significant federal grant.

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

Posted on July 28, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 12