Virtual Simulation at the Heart of Nursing Education

Discover Our Nursing Education and Clinical Experience

As virtual clinicals and simulations are currently being rapidly adopted throughout healthcare education programs, Sentinel U®, a division of American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Post University, has been building digital learning resources and virtual simulations since 2015. In fact, our virtual clinicals are used by more than 200 schools and healthcare organizations across the United States and Canada. We have delivered over 130,000 learner experiences and counting.

Our goal is to advance nursing academic education and healthcare professional training by providing virtual clinicals and simulations that are engaging, effective and economical.

If you are challenged with finding clinical hours for your students or need engaging online learning activities to enhance your academic curriculum or training program, try our affordable and effective virtual clinicals.

Learn Anytime, Anywhere – Join our 200+ clients resulting in more than 130,000 learner experiences annually.

Leadership and Expertise

Jeffrey Caplan


As an astute business leader with exceptional entrepreneurial instincts, Jeffrey Caplan was quick to recognize that the introduction of the internet would forever change the world. He decided he didn’t want to just witness the change, he wanted to be a part of it. Twenty years ago, he gave up a stable career in corporate America to join an online healthcare technology start-up…and never looked back. Today, Caplan is president of Sentinel U®, a premier healthcare education technology (EdTech) organization.

At the helm of Sentinel U, Caplan calls upon his extensive background in healthcare and information technology, strategic business development, and digital learning on a daily basis. He is intimately involved in all aspects, guiding the company as it transforms the future of nursing education and training using virtual simulation and learning innovation technologies.
In his early career, Caplan worked with nurses in the OR who were using DuPont sterile packaging for medical devices. Under his leadership, his team received the coveted DuPont Marketing Excellence Award. After leaving DuPont for a healthcare technology start-up, now known as Global Healthcare Exchange, Caplan quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder until he was eventually lured away to join American Sentinel University. Creating relationships with hospital systems, Caplan helped grow this small online healthcare school into the ninth largest institution in the country for post-licensure nursing enrollment and earned recognition by U.S. News & World Report.

While at American Sentinel University, Caplan eagerly accepted the ambitious assignment to assess the current healthcare learning and training marketplace. He instantly recognized that the decades-old nursing education and professional development models needed a reboot. In-person clinicals, simulation labs and assessments were the accepted standards, but he believed the time had come for nursing educators and professional trainers to adopt – and adapt – to a world that also included digital healthcare learning innovation.
Caplan helped champion a change in the pedagogy of nursing education when he began pivoting the university’s internal-only community health simulation product, a prototype of Sentinel City®, into a marketable teaching tool. That was the catalyst to the formation in 2015 of Healthcare Learning Innovations, now Sentinel U®, which today stands at the forefront of virtual nursing simulation.

Caplan steered the team through four version upgrades of Sentinel City in just 15 months to develop the world’s first commercially available virtual simulation product for use in a community or population health course. His next success was leading the growing team as it developed new product lines for other nursing subjects. With vast experience in business, healthcare and online education, Caplan deftly collaborated with everyone from nurse educators and administrators to software engineers and designers to continue developing Sentinel U’s growing portfolio of virtual simulation products.

Harkening back to his early days working with OR nurses and innovative medical device packaging, this dynamic leader is driven to continue revolutionizing healthcare education and training. As digital media advances and innovative technologies continue to emerge, Caplan forges ahead, learning and adapting, incorporating new techniques and products to best serve the needs of the healthcare community today and tomorrow.

The lifelong learner completed Harvard Business School’s Executive Education: Launching New Ventures/Entrepreneurship program. He earned a Master in Business Administration from the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Rutgers University.

Laura Gonzalez PhD, APRN, CNE, CHSE- A, ANEF, FAAN

Vice President, Clinical Learning Resources

As a lifelong learner, Dr. Laura Gonzalez is uniquely suited for her role as vice president of Clinical Learning Resources. In this position she focuses on product innovation and forecasting future trends, ensuring that Sentinel U® remains at the forefront of simulation education technology.

Considered an early adopter of simulation, Dr. Gonzalez has been advocating for its use in nursing education for the past 20 years. She believes simulation is the best way to close the didactic-clinical gap, seeing the virtual world as the next space where nursing students can practice in a risk-free environment. Learners can safely build confidence by honing their skills through the various simulation modules that Dr. Gonzalez helps develop.

Dr. Gonzalez is such a staunch supporter of simulation that she has focused her professional nursing and academic career on advancing the science of nursing education through the use of simulation and its impact on learner outcomes. Her specific body of work has resulted in more than 20 data-based manuscripts in peer reviewed journals and one clinical skills textbook. Her work as co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation interprofessional grant helped demonstrate that learners were more engaged and had a higher sense of urgency when interacting with an augmented virtual reality simulator.

Recognized as a world-renowned simulation expert, Dr. Gonzalez holds numerous highly acclaimed appointments and honors. She is one of only 83 advanced certified healthcare simulation educators (CHSE-A) globally. Additionally, she currently serves as president-elect for the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. Dr. Gonzalez is also a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Nurses (FAAN) and the Academy of Nurse Educators (ANEF).

As a seasoned nurse educator with experience teaching across live, hybrid, online and synchronous modalities, Dr. Gonzalez’s expertise extends well beyond the classroom and simulation center and into the laboratory. She is privileged to have been on a team of scientists to receive two patents in augmented reality: System for Detecting Sterile Field Events and Related Methods and a Physical-Virtual Patient Bed System.

Dr. Gonzalez began her studies at Hunter College where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Dr. Gonzalez holds a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of South Florida. While working as a nursing instructor at the University of South Florida, she received her Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Central Florida.   

Christine Hansen

Vice President, Finance and Operations

Christine Hansen appreciates the value of education. Not only does she hold a Master of Science in Accounting, but she has dedicated her professional career to higher education financial and operational management. The former controller at American Sentinel University was tapped to take on the vice president of finance and operations role when the institution launched Sentinel U®.

Although her daily focus is on matters such as budget development and financial reporting, along with process development and redesign, she takes great pride in working for an innovative leader in the field of education technology. Hansen has seen firsthand the potential and the impact virtual simulation can make on learners in the classroom and the workforce.
She appreciates the energy and excitement of working for a progressive institution on the cutting-edge of education technology. Hansen says being among the first to see the “next really cool product” in development helps drive her professionally.

While her biggest priorities are client satisfaction and financial performance, Hansen believes her unwavering commitment to doing right has propelled her to stand out amongst professional peers.

Melissa Penner DNP, RN, CNE

Director, Empowered Classroom

When Melissa Penner was a student nurse, she learned venipuncture by practicing on an orange and ran codes on a plastic torso. Even then, she knew there had to be a better way to learn. When she was first introduced to virtual simulation in education, she was quick to recognize its immense learning potential.

As director of empowered classroom, Dr. Penner is charged with generating ideas and bringing concepts to life which allow nursing students to experience real-world situations and hone their skills in the safety of a simulated world. She is driven to empower student success through the use of simulation and strives to make learning exciting and engaging by developing fun, evidence based digital learning resources. Daily, Dr. Penner collaborates with academic teams, deans, and program chairs to develop, implement, and evaluate plans for Sentinel U®’s virtual simulations and learning tools, ensuring products are consistent and up to date with current academic curricula and institutions’ strategic plans.

Dr. Penner is well-suited for her position, having worked as an emergency room nurse and as a certified nurse educator experienced in clinical, classroom and simulation labs. She holds dual master’s degrees in nursing and education, with an emphasis in teaching with technology. Her doctoral research focused on realism, or psychological fidelity, which she applies to her daily work developing simulation products for Sentinel U®. Additionally, she is credited with developing the EMPOWER debrief model designed for virtual simulation.

Dr. Penner draws inspiration from knowing that she is contributing to realistic, exciting, and innovative learning resources for budding and seasoned practitioners. She supports the important work of all nurses through her service as a volunteer on the Unity Point Nurse Honor Guard.

Trevor Rasmusson

Executive Director, Learning Innovation

It’s not surprising that Trevor Rasmusson’s circuitous career path led him to Sentinel U®. He entered the healthcare field as a teenager, working in various hospital departments throughout high school and college. From there, he transitioned into higher education as an online instructor. All the while, he was pursuing a personal interest in gaming.

Recognized for his unique approaches to content delivery, Rasmusson was always exploring ways to bring his interactive synchronous lessons to the next level. This led him to virtual simulation, which was still in its infancy. It provided a place where his game play, experience as an educator, and background in healthcare could converge. Rasmusson saw tremendous opportunity in its applications for nursing professionals and became a pioneer in virtual simulation product development.

As Executive Director of Learning Innovation at Sentinel U, Rasmusson is responsible for guiding product development initiatives and bringing to market innovative instructional solutions that convert traditional learning approaches into quality digital experiences. Central to his duties is leading the Product Development Team as they apply pedagogically sound approaches to tackling common education obstacles through a gamified digital approach.

With a deep appreciation for the storytelling, artwork, and mechanics of video games, Rasmusson’s skills and passion for 3D design, artificial intelligence and gamification have been instrumental to his work creating Sentinel U’s virtual worlds. Motivated by the art of creation, Rasmusson appreciates being able to use his imagination to build worlds and characters that educate through storytelling. He considers molding Sentinel City and Sentinel Town from conception into the pinnacles of virtual simulation education technology they are today to be one of his greatest professional accomplishments.

Rasmusson is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of online education and simulations in healthcare. He is affiliated with the Online Learning Consortium, eLearning Guild, and Society for Simulation in Healthcare.

Sabrina Cook DNP, RN

Director, Nursing Content Development

As a little girl, Sabrina Cook loved caring for others. It was only natural that she entered the nursing profession. Dr. Cook thrived on the energy in the Emergency Department, where she was always faced with something new and had to rely on her knowledge and training to save lives. As her career progressed, Dr. Cook transitioned into nursing education. She excelled at finding new ways to help students understand concepts and make connections.

Dr. Cook initially discovered simulation by accident. She was teaching a clinical nursing course at a school that utilized simulation in its curriculum and volunteered to help with sim set-up, having no idea what that meant. After spending just one day with the school’s simulation coordinator and operator, she was instantly hooked on its power as an educational tool.

As director of nursing content at Sentinel U®, Dr. Cook creates and refines simulation content, ensuring all educational products are consistent, evidence-based, and up to date with academic and practice standards. Dr. Cook strives to make learning fun by creating impactful lessons that help learners foster a better understanding of nursing practices.

Dr. Cook is committed to advancing the use of simulation in nursing education both through her work at Sentinel U® as well as a board member for the South Carolina Nursing Education Simulation Alliance. She is equally dedicated to continuing education, having earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice in Educational Leadership from American Sentinel University in 2018. She also holds a Master of Nursing, Specialization in Healthcare Education from the University of Phoenix, as well as both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an Associate of Science in Technical Nursing from the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Dr. Cook is a member of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and the Golden Key International Honour Society. She also served as a National League for Nursing ambassador.

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Americans With Disabilities and Social Justice


American Sentinel is committed to making Sentinel U products and services an equal experience for all people, including those with disabilities by meeting or exceeding the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 Level A/AA (WCAG 2.1 A/AA).

We continually monitor our site and applications to ensure accessibility to all. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility, an accessibility consulting company, conducted a full accessibility audit using Subject Matter Experts that provided specific recommendations to ensure conformance..

It is important to note that accessibility efforts are ongoing to implement relevant improvements and guidelines over time.

Social Justice

We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We will constantly strive for the continued improvement in social justice, health, well-being and education of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, national origin, veteran status, social economic class, religion, or profession.

We believe that social justice is best achieved through a continuous process of review; and, the adoption of programs and practices that eliminate bias or oppression, either intentionally or unintentionally.

We believe in transparently reporting on our social justice actions to all stakeholders.

We will advocate for social justice, improved health and education for all.

Please contact us directly at 1-800-749-2427 or for specific questions.

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