BROOKINGS — South Dakota State University’s College of Nursing was named a recipient of a simulation research grant from Sentinel U, a leading provider of virtual simulation education tools.

Brandi Pravecek, a clinical assistant professor, will serve as the principal investigator while Robin Arends, SDSU’s advance practice registered nurse program director, and Alyssa Zweifel, director of the Healthcare Simulation Center, will help facilitate the virtual simulations.

The grant will provide the College of Nursing with all of Sentinel U’s Advanced Practice Series virtual education tools, which faculty will use to supplement the learning of a select group of nursing students this spring.

After completing virtual simulations, in-person simulations and traditional clinical rotations, those students will fill out a survey comparing their experiences in each. Later in the summer, students will debrief with faculty to further explore their experiences. The results will then be analyzed by faculty to compare students’ preparedness level and students’ perceived preparedness level between the three distinct learning environments.

“This will be one of the first studies conducted specifically for advanced practice learners, which will provide the education industry with valuable insight and help set the precedent for its future use in advanced practice academic programs on a wide scale,” said Jeffrey Caplan, president of Sentinel U. “We are confident our Advanced Practice Series platform will have positive outcomes on the learning experience.”

As Pravecek notes, finding alternative options for preparing nursing students became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the ability to proceed with in-person simulations and traditional clinicals, nursing faculty around the country were required to seek out alternative learning environments.

“Overnight, the pandemic encouraged us to look at simulation in a variety of ways to really fill the void that was missing in the live clinical setting,” Pravecek explained.

Because South Dakota is a rural state, in-person clinical settings were already limited, especially for pediatric and obstetrics populations. As Pravecek notes, those populations will be the primary focus of the virtual simulations utilized this spring.

“That’s really what prompted our interest in this grant,” Pravecek said. “We don’t want simulation — whether that be face-to-face or virtual — to take the place of the traditional clinical setting, but we want to have the ability to augment our students’ learning with populations that we maybe wouldn’t otherwise have access to in traditional clinical settings.”

With this award, Sentinel U is providing SDSU with open access to all its educational tools — which comes as a significant cost-saving benefit to both the students and the university. Further, Sentinel U has been lauded as the one the leading digital learning resources in the industry.
“It really is a very exciting company to be supported by and involved with,” Pravacek said.

Along with SDSU, the University of Central Florida, Bradley University and Queensland University of Technology in Australia were selected as award recipients.

“We are excited to begin our work with this dynamic group of researchers as we aim to uncover virtual simulation’s impact on advanced practice programs while highlighting diverse voices from all levels of the nursing profession,” said Laura Gonzalez, vice president of clinical learning resources at Sentinel U.

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