North Park University Opens High-Tech Nursing Simulation Laboratory

One of the simulation rooms in North Park University's new state-of-the-art nursing lab, located on Foster Avenue in Chicago.
One of the four simulation rooms in the University's new state-of-the-art nursing lab.

State-of-the-art lab expected to boost School of Nursing program

CHICAGO (September 6, 2011) — This week, North Park University opens its state-of-the-art nursing simulation laboratory, enabling students in nursing and other disciplines to practice critical skills in a simulated, safe learning environment.

The high-tech simulation lab was built during the summer in a 3,000-square foot, ground-level space adjacent to the University Health and Counseling Center on Foster Avenue. It includes four simulation rooms, two control rooms, and a conference room where students will debrief their class experiences. Video and audio recording of simulations will be routine in the new facility.

"This is a project of considerable scope and will offer a substantially improved teaching and learning environment for students in the School of Nursing,” said Dr. David L. Parkyn, North Park University's president. The University’s strategic investment in this project is more than $1 million, he said. Gifts and grants for the laboratory have been used to purchase equipment.

“We’re really pleased with the University’s commitment to put together a lab that will be at this level of sophistication,” said Dr. Linda R. Duncan, dean of the North Park University School of Nursing

Simulation has been used by the aeronautics industry for some time, in which pilots and crew members practice various scenarios, including emergencies. Health care has followed their lead, Duncan said.

In the simulation lab, students will practice their skills on high-tech mannequins or actors, while professors and others observe. Scenarios will be recorded and used in debriefing sessions. The student nurses will be placed in situations ranging from routine practices to high-risk or emergency situations, Duncan said.

“This is very significant for students, for their ability to develop,” Duncan said. “It gives us an opportunity to do more team training and more communication training, which is another big part of health care. The whole notion of training being done in a simulated manner first is now the norm.”

When North Park was planning its laboratory, Duncan traveled with Carl Balsam, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to see its simulation laboratory. “It was a benchmark facility for us. They gave us very positive information,” Duncan said.

School of Nursing personnel during training in the lab's debriefing conference room. Photo: School of Nursing personnel during training in the lab's debriefing conference room.

The School of Nursing also plans to invite community and University partners to use the facility for continuing education. “There are opportunities for us to share this resource with other people in our community. There are so many possibilities,” Duncan said.

“I’m looking forward to actually using the lab,” said Mary Shehan, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of nearby Swedish Covenant Hospital. The hospital hopes to use the lab for its new graduate nurse residency program and to help experienced nurses learn new procedures, Shehan said. The new North Park lab could also be used for annual competency testing for nurses to ensure that they are up to date on the latest clinical practices, she said.

In addition to training nurses, Duncan said the lab can be used to train people working in other disciplines, such as hospital chaplains. “Often chaplains in hospitals, and for that matter, pastors, find themselves right in the midst of [medical] discussions,” she said. “It’s one thing to talk about them in class. It’s another thing to experience them in simulation and then do some kind of reflective thinking.”

Faculty and staff of the North Park School of Nursing completed training last week on how to use the lab and its equipment.

The North Park University School of Nursing has about 150 undergraduate majors and another 130 students in the master’s degree program. Students study and work at hospitals throughout Chicago. The University plans to formally dedicate the new lab at Homecoming activities in October, including a planned open house for visitors.


For further information or resources, contact John Brooks, Director of Media Relations and News, via email or at (773) 244-5522. Learn more about North Park University.

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