Carolinas College of Health Sciences launches new program in healthcare simulation

New bachelor's program with simulated healthcare in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Carolinas College of Health Sciences is launching a new bachelor’s program in Charlotte. It will focus on healthcare simulation as there is a demand for more professionals who are trained to educate students and operate health simulation labs.

Atrium Health and the Carolinas College of Health Science use the Carolinas Simulation Center in the Cannon Research Center on Atrium Health’s campus for health simulation. Health simulation educator and manager Crystal Bencken says the simulation lab is a place for future nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, and anyone in the medical field to practice.

“To get those skills up to the measure you want before they actually take care of patients,” Bencken said.

There are not any living patients in the lab. Instead, health simulation uses computerized mannequins that act as patients and other technologies to simulate what medical students will experience in the field.

Health simulation educators like Crystal Bencken are responsible for programming the mannequins and setting up scenarios for students to practice in.

The mannequins can blink, breathe, make bowel sounds, show signs of a fever, seize, and talk. As students care for and treat the “patients,” the mannequins respond to their treatment just as a patient would.

“If they choose the right drug, good things happen. If they choose the wrong drug, the patient could have low blood pressure,” Bencken explains. “Our team is constantly working on updating and making sure all the technology works so that it feels as real as possible.”

Nursing student Sophia Habibi says the simulation lab is as realistic as it can get before going into real clinical settings.

“It’s helpful that the mannequin talks back to you and answers every single question,” Habibi said. “And, when you check for the pulse you can feel the pulse. Once you take your respirations with your stethoscope and listen to the lung and heart sounds. It’s all there and it’s very similar to having an actual patient.”

Leaders with Atrium Health and Carolinas College of Health Sciences say there is a growing demand for healthcare professionals that are trained to work in simulation labs.

“I think COVID gave a lot of programs an opportunity to see how simulation and alternative teaching methodologies could be useful,” Program Chair for Health Sciences and General Studies at Carolinas College of Health Sciences Andrew Phronebarger said. “I think particularly wit the advent of COVID, a lot of programs saw an additional need because there students just weren’t able to get into that healthcare setting as they used to.”

Now, Carolinas College of Health Sciences is opening a new bachelor’s program: Healthcare Simulation Track. Atrium Health says this is the first of its kind in the nation because most healthcare simulation degrees are offered in associates or masters programs.

A student with a prior bachelor’s degree can complete the certificate in one year. A student with a prior associate degree can complete the program in about two years. Students with no incoming credits can complete the program in about four years.

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