Characterized by alarmingly low population health rankings, Louisiana is in the midst of a major crisis, and the need for proficient healthcare providers has never been more urgent. As access to highly qualified providers emerges as a critical factor for improving health outcomes, Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) is taking an innovative approach by investing in its simulation facility. In July 2023, BPCC became the first college in the state to obtain Gaumard’s high-fidelity patient simulator, HAL® S5301. By providing students with immersive simulation training, BPCC aims to equip the healthcare workforce of Louisiana with the capabilities to address the state’s health crisis effectively and elevate the overall quality of healthcare delivery.
The causes of Louisana’s growing health crisis
Louisiana is in dire need of highly qualified healthcare providers as it falls well below national averages in rankings of state population health. For example, in 2020, heart disease and stroke rates were 29.6% higher in Louisiana than the U.S. average, putting the state 42nd in the nation for rates of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, obesity and diabetes rates were also above the national average, ranking Louisiana 47th and 46th in these disease categories, respectively.
Many of these health problems stem from the fact that in Louisiana, 21% of households are food insecure, and 15% are food insufficient. This means people have trouble accessing nutritional and affordable food, which promotes unhealthy eating and reliance on fast food, increasing the risk of developing chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Therefore, one of the goals of BPCC’s healthcare programs is to create providers who can help improve the state’s health.
However, these mounting health issues come at a time when Louisana is facing a provider shortage. Currently, there are 5,400 vacant nursing positions across the state. Furthermore, 63 out of 64 parishes are designated Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). As a result, persons across the state, especially those in rural areas, are increasingly finding regular healthcare increasingly difficult.
Health outcomes improve when people have access to regular primary care. Addressing the healthcare shortage in Louisiana is imperative to making people healthier and alleviating the health crisis. By investing in its simulation facility, BPCC aims to provide more hands-on clinical experiences to students who will enter the in-state workforce ready to provide high-quality care.
Provider shortages and clinical experience gaps impact care
Ensuring that nursing students gain enough clinical experience so they are ready to enter the workforce has become more complicated in recent years. Traditionally, nursing education incorporated classroom learning, skills lab practice, and clinical hours. Students would spend extensive time at the bedside learning from experienced providers before they entered the workforce.
However, since 2012, the U.S. has experienced a nursing shortage, reducing the number of nursing faculty. As a result, many nursing schools have had to deny thousands of qualified applicants each year and cut clinical hours. This means nursing schools cannot graduate enough students to address the current shortage. Also, some graduates may lack hands-on experience with specific skill sets or patients, creating gaps in their knowledge.
Moreover, most novice healthcare providers experience significant stress and anxiety during clinical hours. A student’s clinical experience significantly affects the quality of nursing education and their performance in the workforce. Without support from skilled educators, learning is negatively impacted. Specifically, it increases the risk of errors, especially during certain emergency cases, as patients require prompt and expert care to afford them the best opportunity for a positive outcome.
Students need a way to safely develop the psychomotor and psychological skills required of healthcare professionals. Simulation-based training can be used in place of traditional clinical hours. Simulators like Gaumard’s HAL S5301 have advanced features that facilitate experiential learning, allowing users to apply the knowledge learned in the classroom and hone the skills needed to provide better care.
BPCC improves education with simulation-based training
BPCC is currently the only institution in Louisiana to use the HAL S5301 simulator. With grant funding support, BPCC could purchase HAL to provide more experiential learning to the college’s RN, LPN, OTA, Paramedic, PTA, and respiratory therapy students. Nursing students from LSU-Shreveport and PT students from the LSU Health Sciences Center will also train on HAL.
HAL’s realistic physiology and features allow it to recreate real-world patient care scenarios. Students can use the same tools and equipment they would use on an actual patient on HAL. Therefore, students can apply the knowledge learned in the classroom actively instead of passively observing an educator. HAL’s vitals and physical symptoms will respond to their actions and the effectiveness of their interventions. Thus, students work under time constraints inherent in certain patient encounters.
As students work as a team and delegate tasks, they hone their ability to think critically under pressure and problem-solve. They also rehearse complicated protocols and procedures that would be too risky for novice providers to perform on an actual patient. This bridges the gap between theory and practice, ensuring students develop competency in essential procedural skills before they enter the workforce.
With HAL, BPCC can offer students a safe and immersive environment to learn and refine their psychomotor and psychological skills. The HAL S5301’s advanced capabilities enable students to experience the stress of real patient interactions in a controlled environment, equipping them to perform confidently and competently in actual healthcare settings. This innovation directly addresses the concerns of novice healthcare providers feeling overwhelmed during clinical hours, allowing them to become used to these working conditions.
Moreover, HAL’s AI-enhanced speech feature allows learning events to incorporate patient-provider communication. Positive patient outcomes depend on good communication, but limited clinical hours afford less time to practice effective patient interactions. HAL helps providers develop their ability to get a more accurate diagnosis and facilitate appropriate, compassionate, and culturally sensitive counseling, improving treatment and long-term health outcomes.
Bossier Parish Community College achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first school in Louisiana to acquire Gaumard’s advanced patient simulator, HAL® S5301. This addition to the BPCC simulation center holds immense promise for healthcare education, elevating it through high-stress learning events that refine clinical skills. With HAL S5301, BPCC provides a safe space for students to learn and enhance technical and psychological skills, fostering confidence and competence. This translates to better patient outcomes once they enter the workforce and holds the potential to enhance healthcare quality across the state substantially.
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