Simulation Technology Is A BOOST For Health Sciences Campus

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Florence-Darlington Technical College’s (FDTC) Health Sciences Campus in downtown Florence offers the cutting edge in health care education thanks to its recently installed simulation suites.

The Better Occupational Outcomes with Simulation Training (BOOST) offices are located on the second floor of the Health Sciences Campus. The two rooms appear to be actual hospital rooms with manikins lying in the bed. In fact, if it’s your first time on the campus, you may think those are real people being examined by students. However, it’s a simulation suite that offers students a real-life atmosphere before graduating and being placed in front of a state examiner.

The simulation suites were made possible through a $3.5 million federal grant, and the manikins and Laedral Learning Application (LLEAP) software were purchased from medical equipment manufacturer, Laerdal. The entire setup on campus was a collaborative effort with Healthcare Simulation of South Carolina (HCSSC) that’s based out of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston.

“We worked with an organization that helped us put in something that has been proven to be effective over time at MUSC,” said Chris Hutchinson, simulation specialist. “Their instructors and their faculty run their students through labs, and we’re doing the very same thing.”

Once inside the simulation suite, students are graded on every move they make by an instructor stationed in a control room that has a one-way glass view. From the control room, an instructor has an array of options and scenarios already programmed into the system, or they can sit back and allow the actual simulation program to take control and keep the students guessing on what will happen next to their “patient.” Each of the sessions are recorded via remotely operated video cameras and archived to be reviewed by instructors and students. Students may also choose to incorporate these videos into digital résumés they give to prospective employers.

The scenarios mimic reality. Students may think that they’re treating an asthma attack, but then the symptoms evolve into a heart attack. If the “patient’s” pulse, blood pressure or CO2 saturation raises or lowers, students must quickly bolt into action or their “patient” will flat line and die. There are also prerecorded responses from the manikin patient if the student doesn’t react quickly enough. Some classes even have another student pose as an angry family member, and the students being graded must contain the situation while also keeping their “patient” alive.

“The state exam requires them to be tested on 22 different skills, and we have skill scenarios loaded in the software that are pre-programmed for each one of those 22 skills,” Hutchinson said.

Each session is recorded, and throughout the semester, students will go through at least 15 simulations. This process enables students to perform better when they get to clinicals.

Next to the simulation suites is a debriefing room where potential employers can watch the students in action and decide if they want to hire them or not. The simulations can even be simulcast in another room for employers to view.

This past semester, FDTC students in the BOOST program who used the simulation suites had a 100% job offer rate at competitive salaries.

“The debriefing room works very well when we bring McLeod and Carolinas Hospital personnel and some of the other healthcare providers in here,” Hutchinson said. “We bring them in here and let them watch our students in action, and many of them are ready to skip to the second level of their interviewing with these students after they’ve seen them.”

As successful as the implementation of the simulation suites has been so far, the current setup is only phase one. Beginning this summer and into the fall semester, phase two will start to take shape. Students will be able to practice their skills by using a laptop with the LLEAP software before setting foot inside the actual simulation suites. They will also be able to practice with each other instead of the manikins. This process will enable students to focus more on executing their tasks when it comes time to be graded.

“While all of this technology is great, it is still about using these tools to teach technical proficiency as well as soft skills,” said Lee Daugherty, BOOST program director. “Before making job offers, employers want to observe the interaction between the student and the manikins.”

Moving towards the future, the idea is to integrate all of this new, innovative technology into all nursing curricula. Currently, only two-year nursing assistants and nurses in the two-year Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) program have access to the simulation suites.

“The plan is that we will begin to make this available to the rest of the full nursing career curriculum,” Hutchinson said. “We’ll get the other nursing instructors in here, get them trained, and get them comfortable bringing their students into the lab and running through more scenarios with them.”

For more information on FDTC’s Health Sciences Campus, please visit Keep up with the BOOST program at the college by liking ( on Facebook and by following the program on Twitter, @FDTCBOOST.

Hunter Thomas

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