UTPA nursing program receives $278,658 grant for simulation lab
Posted: 10/11/2010
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Nursing students at The University of Texas-Pan American will have eight new patients to learn from, thanks to a grant from the federal government.

UTPA nursing student Ruben Vela practices his nursing skills with the SimMan, a portable and advanced patient simulator which allows students to practice realistic emergency treatment of patients in the classroom.

The University received a $278,658 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant is part of $88.7 million being given to institutions of higher learning, hospitals, health care centers and other organizations dedicated to health care through funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of that, Texas is receiving $9.8 million.

The money will be used to purchase eight human patient simulation manikins for students to practice treating people of all ages. The manikins replicate just about every human function and health situation a person might experience, including a heart attack or childbirth.

UTPA currently has some low- and medium-fidelity simulator manikins but they are not as up-to-date as the ones it will purchase with the grant money, said Dr. Carolina Huerta, chair of the Department of Nursing of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services and the Lillian O. Slemp Endowed Professor in nursing.

"This will definitely help us," Huerta said.

The grant was written so that graduate nursing students would be able to train using these simulators, but the college's nursing program plans to expand their use to undergraduate nursing students and eventually other students within the college, they said.

Some space in the college's building is being used to conduct labs with students. Its ultimate plan is to have a full simulation lab that will replicate a real-life hospital.

"This is a real launch for this endeavor," Dr. Janice A. Maville, an assistant dean of the college, the coordinator of the Master of Science in Nursing program and the Lillian O. Slemp Endowed Chair in nursing. "Now that we have the equipment coming into us from the grant we need the space."

Buying the simulators will also allow the nursing program to have more of its students complete required practical training, the professors said.

It has been challenging to ensure all undergraduate and graduate students in UTPA's nursing program receive their required practical training because there are fewer clinical sites available to the students because other health care professional education programs are also using the facilities.

"The simulation will help alleviate some of this bottleneck," said Tony Casas, special projects coordinator for the college and a co-writer of the grant.

Casas and the professors said they are grateful to Dr. Bruce Reed, the college's dean and UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen for their support in pursuing the federal money. They also said they hope this grant will encourage other faculty within the college to pursue funding for research and projects.

The college is hosting a simulation lab demonstration on Oct. 22 at the Health Sciences and Human Services East building to showcase the technology students are using in their training.