Georgia Highlands Engages Nursing Students with Virtual Clinicals Nursing Simulations

Cynthia Carter has a lot of experience when it comes to education, both as a teacher and student. She is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Georgia Highlands College, has earned her Master’s in Nursing and in Health Education, and is studying for her Doctorate in Nursing as well.

“My favorite part of nursing was educating the patients. When I was in my graduate program, I decided I wanted to do what my professors were doing,” she says, recounting how she found her passion for nursing education. Today, she’s teaching Community Health Nursing and several other courses in Georgia Highlands’ RN-BSN program, combining her love of education with her skills as a nurse.

Online or On Land, Same Issues for Educators

“One of the biggest issues I face is finding a way to make learning enjoyable. Students get bored looking up information and stressed out writing papers,” Carter remarks. Students today expect information to be delivered in ways that intrigue and motivate. They’ve grown up with technology and learn best when the experience is interactive, and especially when it includes visual and auditory components.

Community health clinical placements are difficult to find and ensuring meaningful experiences is just as challenging. Carter sums up the situation: “Even when I could get students into clinical rotations, they often were not allowed to practice skills, but were restricted to watching a public health nurse chart, which was not only not meaningful, but dull and uninspiring.” Cost of education, including textbooks, is another issue. Georgia Highlands is an “access school.” Some of Carter’s students are on tight budgets or have been denied enrollment elsewhere due to class size restrictions.

Engaging and Cost-Effective Learning Environment

The challenges kept Carter up at night. “I got online at about three o’clock in the morning and started looking for anything that would help me understand what other schools did to help students meet their clinical placement requirement and found Sentinel U.” She requested a demo and, in her words, “fell in love with it.” After a second demo, this time with her supervisor also watching, Sentinel World soon became a major part of her online classroom.

Carter uses both Sentinel City® and Sentinel Town® in her Community Health course. She incorporates about 75% of the assignments that are included in the course catalog in her curriculum. In fact, she has eliminated the textbook. Instead, she pulls articles that align with the assigned topic of the week and upload them, saving her students money while incorporating traditional instruction into the work.

To date, she has had students explore the urban environment of Sentinel City and the rural setting of Sentinel Town for three semesters. It’s given her good opportunity to judge how effective the immersive environment is. “I feel it provides a great learning experience, more so than when writing a paper in many instances. Also, the simulation prompts them to support their choices with evidence-based practice research, to bring their own perspective to the situations and use critical thinking skills to make decisions in developing the patient’s plan of care.” It even can be inspirational. One of her students has said that Community Health Nursing was an area of nursing she had not considered until taking the course.

Carter adds that it also allows her to focus on teaching and has recommended other educators take advantage of online clinical scenarios as well. “Once an instructor learns the program and the assignments, it allows them more time to help students understand nursing concepts, and more time to mentor rather than grade papers. Having the opportunity to be part of using this product is amazing and I highly recommend it.”