All eyes on simulation: New Ivy Tech building brings experiential learning to campus

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Ambulance simulation

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES — Ivy Tech Kokomo Chancellor Dean McCurdy shows off the college's new ambulance simulator that will be used to teach students in the paramedic science program how to respond to real-life situations.

Ivy Tech Kokomo is bringing real-life simulations and settings to students in some of the college’s highest-demand programs.

As the campus continues to undergo a $43 million transformation, officials, for the first time in the history of Ivy Tech Kokomo, have been able to design high-quality teaching spaces for its students — and they haven’t missed a chance to bring clinical settings home.

“We’ve always purchased buildings that were designed for other uses and figure out what to do with them, and with this, we’ve really been able to start with a clean slate. We haven’t had a chance to do that in over 30 years at this location,” said Ivy Tech Kokomo Chancellor Dean McCurdy.

The new Health Professions Center, which houses programs such as dental and medical assisting, healthcare support, paramedic science, respiratory care, and surgical technology, now features a fully-functional dental lab, a state-of-the-art ambulance simulator, operating rooms where students scrub in before entering, and doctor’s offices with one-way glass to allow for teaching demonstrations and assessments – to name a few of the new features.

At the beginning of the fall semester, dental assisting students started classes in the new center. For the past three years, students had been working out of temporary classrooms after a tornado took out the dental assisting program in 2016 that was set up inside Inventrek.

The new dental area, which is now on campus with other health science programs, features a classroom, student lounge area, and a dental lab that’s set up with six functional work stations that mimic a professional dental office.

“You’ve got your X-ray machine, and you can do impressions. This is really what we needed,” said McCurdy. “You’ll see a real emphasis on simulation. Here, they’re simulating, but they’re also learning the actual practices on patients.”

Also housed in the new center is the surgical technician program, which McCurdy called one of the highest-demand fields that Ivy Tech offers. Surgical techs assist in the surgical process and are responsible for the sterilization and the handling of equipment and instruments.

Now, students can practice those skills in the new classroom that’s paired with a large surgical theater that, once completed, will feature four operating areas. Each area will be fitted with equipment students would find in the field.

“In here, we give students exams to assess their competency, and you can carry out simulation activities and observe what they’re doing,” said McCurdy. “It’s really the way all of these medical fields are going. They always do clinicals when they’re out in the field; that’s always going to be a major part of this. But before they go out and do that, they’ll simulate dozens of different scenarios in here repeatedly so they can go through the entire process. It’s really important that we have the most realistic environment possible.”

The surgical theater has been designed with large, one-way glass windows on all sides to allow for teaching opportunities and also to give all students a chance to see surgical tech students in action. Having the ability to do that, said McCurdy, will give first-year students who haven’t chosen their program yet a firsthand look at the program, as well as give high school students visiting the campus a glimpse into the program.

While the surgical technician program isn’t new to Ivy Tech, the simulations are. Previously students relied on imagining hypothetical situations, looking at photographs, and visiting other centers. McCurdy called the new surgical technician infrastructure a “game-changer.”

Similarly, the CNA lab also has been designed realistically with hospital beds, equipment, and the tools necessary to offer real-life simulation experiences in the classroom. McCurdy said the space also will be used as a training center for area physicians for professional development.

Over in the paramedic science program, students also will get a leg up in their education as the college purchased a state-of-the-art ambulance simulator. Now, students will be able to practice dozens of real-life scenarios in the ambulance that even has the capability of mimicking what it would feel like to work inside a moving ambulance.

Students will practice the various scenarios, including high-risk, low occurrence situations, on lifelike mannequins.

“I’ve watched these simulations before, and you very quickly forget that you’re watching a simulation because some of the simulation mannequins we have, they’re $80,000 and up. We have one that can give birth. It is remarkably realistic from what I can tell. They can scream. You can speak through them. They have a blood pressure, a pulse. They measure what medications you’ve injected into them. They even measure the quantity,” McCurdy said.

By being able to practice real-life simulations in all of the programs in the Health Professions Center, McCurdy said the students will be much better prepared once they go out to do clinical rotations.

“This is all about the experiential learning for students, putting them real-world situations, assessing their competencies. That’s why we built all these labs in this building because that, again, is really what we need to help prepare students, but also the more realistic we can make it for them, the better prepared they are. It’s also really exciting for them to be in those types of situations,” he said.

While McCurdy believes the new center will attract more students to the programs, he stressed that the first goal is “all about retention.”

“We want to first make sure we’re doing everything we can for our current students, but it also requires us to attract more students to these fields. These are all high-demand and typically pretty high-wage fields,” he said.

Currently, only dental assisting students are using the building. McCurdy hopes to open up additional programs in the new center by spring semester.

dental chair

HAND-ON — (Above) Students will utilize a new, professional dental lab as part of the dental assisting program. (Left) A surgical theater has been built to give surgical tech students access to hands-on applications where they can practice with actual machinery and surgical tools used in the field. Once finished, it will house six surgical units. Students will use the sinks outside the theater to scrub in.

The south end of the building also remains under construction. It houses several other labs, including an electrical lab, a programmable logic controller (PLC) lab, and a mechanical engineering technology lab. One area of the space has been designed with an open floorplan for robotics training, and the classrooms are built with large, glass doors that open to easily move in and out oversized equipment. Ivy Tech worked with FCA US on the design so it accurately replicates what student would see in a modern advanced manufacturing facility.