Simulation lab prepares students for careers in the medical world

EAST LAMPETER TOWNSHIP, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- A special simulation lab in Lancaster County is teaching students how to care for patients.

Experts say it could be just as valuable as training in a clinical setting.

From the ambulance to the emergency room, medical students are learning how to make critical decisions with real patients at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences.

“We think we are pretty realistic. Our setting is top notch," said Kristen Zulkosky, the director of the Center for Excellence in Practice at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences.

Real people pretend to suffer from fake injuries; medical students have to act fast.

“They have to learn to make clinical decisions on their own," added Zulkowsky.

It's designed to be like working in a hospital or a doctor’s office.

Allyson McDaniel is studying radiography.

“We take pictures," explained McDaniel. "Mostly x-rays, but you can go on to be certified in other medical imaging."

Thursday's training was pretty special.

"I think my favorite part was being up in the operating room," she said. "That's a environment we don't get to go into too often in clinical."

It's also not every day she gets to do that alongside other students from Lebanon Valley College who are practicing to become nurses, athletic directors, and paramedics.

“It’s been fun to meet other people from different programs. Definitely have learned what it feels like to be in other someone else’s shoes," added McDaniel.

On the other side of the wall inside the "emergency room", faculty members observe.

“We do not grade in simulation, for the most part," explained Zulkosky. "We could grade in simulation, but we make it a safe learning environment, and we let the students know if they’re getting grades or not.”

Instructors know mistakes will happen; it's obviously better to make them here than in the real world.

“The purpose of the simulation is that we don’t have our instructors right there, giving us helpful hints and tips. So we are kind of on our own so that has been challenging," explained McDaniel.

Being on their own is also what students say makes it so rewarding.

“I feel like I have grown in my skills today," added McDaniel.

“We are educating our next generation of healthcare providers," explained Zulkosky.

After the scenarios, students and faculty debrief together, asking questions like, 'what could we have improved?'

You can learn more about simulation learning on Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences' website. 

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