Elmira College’s Nursing Simulation Labs Prepare Providers for Career Success

Photo & Video Credit: Elmira College

Since its start in 2014, the nursing simulation labs at Elmira College have offered nursing students valuable training opportunities. For nurses, hands-on clinical experiences are a key part of developing the skills needed to be successful in the workforce. However, the pandemic and nursing faculty shortages have made it challenging for many students across the U.S. to get those experiences. By investing in simulation, Elmira College has built a state-of-the-art facility that provides nursing students with an ideal learning environment. There, students safely practice and hone skills, ensuring they get the training to ensure excellence in patient care.


Simulation labs provide safe spaces to prepare students for the real world

Elmira College’s Nursing Program aims to offer students demanding academic studies and clinical exposure starting from their sophomore year, fostering practical learning and readying them for real-world problem-solving[1]. Simulation plays an essential part in facilitating these hands-on learning experiences. Recognizing the need for high-fidelity simulation to enhance learning, the nursing laboratories and simulation suite, located in Cowles Hall, were funded through an economic development grant.

According to Dr. Tammy Bocek, Associate Professor of Nurse Education and Simulation Laboratory Coordinator, “Our state-of-the-art simulation center provides exposure to real-life scenarios in a controlled, safe environment. Students can practice their skills and clinical judgment to gain confidence before entering the clinical area.”

These facilities are a safe environment for students to practice as professional nurses. Simulation enables experiential learning whereby the participants can think critically and apply what they have learned in the classroom hands-on. A simulation coordinator with training in simulation best practices helps design the scenarios along with faculty. Each faculty member has extensive clinical experience in their expertise and supervises students during each scenario and in the debriefing.

The scenarios are planned, designed, and tested to ensure they meet learning outcomes. Special attention is paid to enhancing the environment so fidelity and reality are increased. This allows for easier immersion, so the nursing students engage with the simulation as they would in a real-world scenario. Simulation is never passive; scenarios are challenging, requiring students to think critically, put their knowledge into practice, and experience the implications of their actions.

Students practice skills hands-on in the nursing simulation labs

Students can safely practice skills and procedures hands-on in the nursing simulation labs. These experiences are key to succeeding in the real world.


Training in the nursing simulation labs helps build vital skills

Simulation is an integral part of the nursing program because it helps support the college’s academic goals. Elmira College believes a collaborative, supportive space that enables active learning and teamwork is best for student learning. The simulation facilities offer an ideal environment for learning because they allow deliberate practice of clinical and practical skills. Traditional clinical hours are opportunistic, and training can be limited due to the availability of training spaces and patients.

Likewise, as Dr. Bocek explains, “In the event of a global pandemic or other unforeseen circumstance where nursing students are unable to access clinical patients, at Elmira College, we have the ability to flex to a simulation experience.” Thus, the college’s simulation center ensures students have regular opportunities for clinical practice.

The nursing simulation labs help students refine their critical thinking and problem-solving capacity in high-pressure situations. Additionally, they can practice intricate protocols and procedures that may pose too much risk for inexperienced clinicians to perform on real patients. This process effectively closes the divide between theory and practice, guaranteeing that students acquire proficiency in fundamental skills.

Providing these hands-on clinical experiences in the simulation labs is incredibly important as the pandemic and faculty shortages have interrupted traditional hands-on clinical hours for many students. As healthcare becomes more complex, without “sufficient preparation, support, and training throughout the transition into practice, new clinicians may be especially prone to loss of confidence, burnout, and reduced mindfulness around a culture of safety”[2].

Moreover, the simulation lab is a space where, if mistakes are made, they can be transformed into powerful teaching tools. As the learners work through each scenario, they can receive immediate feedback on their performance from the faculty, which helps them examine their actions and learn how to correct errors.

Through repeated practice, participants develop the knowledge and self-efficacy to perform procedures effectively, communicate with teammates, and delegate tasks. Ultimately, the simulation labs prepare learners for the realities of working in clinical settings, ensuring graduates from the college’s nursing program are better prepared to face the challenges of modern healthcare and ensure patient safety.

Elmira College integrates simulation extensively into its nursing program to support academic goals, emphasizing a collaborative and supportive learning environment for active learning and teamwork.


Simulation bridges training gaps in nursing education 

The nursing program’s focus on experiential learning means that whichever nursing specialty students pursue, they will be ready for the workplace. Dr. Bocek explains that “having access to our simulation center, students can practice providing care to specific populations of patients that they may not have the opportunity to see during their clinical rotations.”

The facilities incorporate high-fidelity and mid-fidelity simulators to provide skills practice and exposure to real-life scenarios. Students can master specific low-frequency, high-risk cases when these experiences are unavailable otherwise. Thus, simulation is a useful tool to address and fill training gaps, ensuring the college’s nursing students receive comprehensive and effective learning experiences.

The practical and ethical limitations of training on a live patient make acquiring skills and competency difficult with traditional clinical hours. However, simulation allows nursing students to gain invaluable hands-on experience assessing, diagnosing, and treating various patients without risk to real patients. Students can also practice basic and complex procedures and protocols, ensuring they leave the program having honed fundamental parts of patient care.

Mid-fidelity simulators are used as task trainers to practice basic procedures every nurse needs to master, such as starting an IV, inserting a Foley catheter, hygienic wound care, and tracheostomy care. High-fidelity simulators help recreate complex cases such as obstetric and trauma-related emergencies. These simulators’ vital signs, physical presentation, and symptoms respond to the students’ interventions, so they see the implications of their actions in real-time.

Thus, the nursing simulation labs can recreate the stress inherent in emergency scenarios and present a real psychological challenge. Fear of failure can affect students, and this is an important factor that educators acknowledge when evaluating their performance. Simulation should be a safe place to learn and grow, so the scenarios and the feedback given during debriefing are designed to help students develop the ability to work under pressure.

Moreover, the simulators also create opportunities for interprofessional learning, as nursing students can collaborate with students from other disciplines. Faculty developed interprofessional simulation scenarios for critical care courses that involve the college’s medical and nursing students. This has successfully provided them with experiences in working collaboratively and communicating and the opportunity to understand the unique roles of the medical provider and nurse.



In conclusion, since its inception, Elmira College’s simulation facilities have been a beacon of innovative education and instrumental in providing nursing students with essential hands-on training. By offering a safe environment for practice, the facilities ensure students develop critical skills needed for success in healthcare. Through simulation, students refine their clinical abilities, problem-solving skills, and capacity to work under pressure. Additionally, the labs foster interprofessional learning, preparing students for collaborative teamwork in real-world healthcare settings. Ultimately, Elmira College’s simulation facilities play a pivotal role in shaping confident, competent nurses ready to meet the challenges of modern healthcare.

[1] “Nursing.” Elmira College, 2024, https://www.elmira.edu/academics/programs/nursing.

[2] “Transitioning new clinicians from education to practice named top patient safety concern of 2024.” Cision US Inc, 2024, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/transitioning-new-clinicians-from-education-to-practice-named-top-patient-safety-concern-of-2024-302085741.html.

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