May 6, 2024

Clinical Simulation Learning Centre the heartbeat of nursing education

Inside the dynamic state-of-the-art facility where future nurses are educated
Production crew filming at the CSLC for A Broken Beat
Production crew filming at the CSLC for A Broken Beat. Gudrun Schulze Ebbinghoff

When Janine Kirk’s daughter, Emma, was born, it should have been cause for celebration. Instead, days after her arrival, Emma was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (CHD) and airlifted to Edmonton’s Stollery Hospital. A few days later, at only a week old, Emma would undergo her first surgery to correct her CHD. 

Today Emma is a thriving five-year-old, thanks to the excellent care she received. The quality of care and support deeply resonated with Kirk, who used this experience to write, direct, and star in her debut film, A Broken BeatShe summarizes it as a tribute to the affected families and to the heroes in the hospitals — “the surgeons, the doctors and the nurses giving their everything every day to save lives.”  

And as luck would have it, the budding filmmaker would shoot the film in the Clinical Simulation Learning Centre (CSLC). It’s a 13,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility housed in the University of Calgary’s  Faculty of Nursing that immerses students in simulated scenarios that mimic the chaos, unpredictability and victories of real-life nursing.  

Staffed by skilled and dedicated professionals and aided by cutting-edge technology, the CSLC offers students a curated environment where the line between simulation and reality blurs. Students can then build the practical skills needed to become confident, empathetic and competent nurses who make a positive difference to the lives of patients like Emma.  

Tammy Hnatyshyn

Tammy Hnatyshyn

Preparing the next generation of nurses  

Simulation is an important component of nursing education, says Tammy Hnatyshyn, BN’92, an associate professor (teaching) with UCalgary Nursing and outgoing academic lead for the CSLC.  

“Simulation learning improves clinical competencies,” says Hnatyshyn. “Having simulations allows us to expose students to clinical situations where they can practise their skills without risk to real people. This prepares them to be safe with their patients when they graduate.” 

The practical skills learned in the CSLC are quickly put into use, as Joy Estilong discovered. She is set to convocate with her Bachelor of Nursing in June  — but is already working in the field. 

“I found the simulations that I encountered here in the centre I actually experienced, later on, in the hospital,” Estilong says. “The simulation centre helped prepare me for the nursing field.” 

Joy Estilong

Joy Estilong

Nada Hassanin

The hyperrealism of the Clinical Simulation Learning Centre 

When a student is successful in challenging situations, their confidence grows, says Hnatyshyn. To ensure students are successful in clinical practice, simulations are designed to be as realistic as possible.  

Estilong says it’s an incredibly immersive experience. “Inside the rooms, the manikin patients blink, breathe and talk. It really reflected how a real patient would act.” And the setting only solidified the realism, “with all the overhead pages, call bells and sound effects.”  

The hyperrealism of the space is what made the CSLC the perfect location setting for Kirk and her producing partner, Gudrun Schulze Ebbinghoff, to shoot their short film.  

“Being able to tell this story in such a realistic environment opened up so many doors for us to be creative,” says Kirk. “We were able to use hospital equipment to tell the story as authentically as possible.”    

The realism of the space elevated the film to another level, says Schulze Ebbinghoff. “It allows us to go, with confidence, into places such as the Sundance Film Festival, with its enormous reputation.” They plan to submit the film to the festival as well as numerous others. 

The duo could not be more grateful and enthusiastic about the opportunity to have shot the film in the location.  

“Using the facility brought so much more meaning to the film,” says Kirk. “I wanted to open the door to bring awareness to a defect that is very common and affects a lot of children. And it will help the audience to better experience what the characters go through because it is so authentic.”  

Jeff Dawes

Jeff Dawes

Nada Hassanin

Behind the dynamism of the CSLC  

The primary focus of the CSLC is to deliver labs and simulations for faculty, says manager Jeff Dawes. However, Dawes says, “The functioning of the simulation centre is very capital- and technology-intensive.” To offset the operating costs, the centre partners with the community to allow the facility to be used for events, whether for charitable groups or renting the space for film and television production.

Dawes says these revenue-generating projects can have a significant impact on the budget by allowing the centre to monetize investments into benefits. “Last summer, for example, I bought an infant patient simulator using funds that we generated through this type of activity,” he says.  

The value of the CSLC  

As one of the most important resources in nursing educators’ toolkits, where faculty usher in the next generation of health-care leaders, the importance of the CSLC cannot be overstated. 

“After working in the simulation centre, my confidence has grown and I’ve learned how to apply my nursing critical-thinking skills,” says Estilong. “I really appreciated the kind, constructive feedback. I found that I really grew from that as a nurse.” 

For facilities like the CSLC, to continue providing students with the standard of excellence that UCalgary is known for, Dawes says it need to evolve. “We need to keep our eyes on the horizon to anticipate what will happen next,” to ensure that students don’t just learn about nursing, but become nurses.

UCalgary Nursing has been educating students to become registered nurses and health-care leaders since 1974. Through the generation of research and scholarship, we continue to improve and innovate health outcomes and system transformation in our community and beyond. National Nursing week is May 6 to 12, 2024, and this year’s theme from the Canadian Nurses Association is Changing Lives. Shaping Tomorrow. Learn more 

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