How to engage medical assisting students with skills simulations

Medical Assistant Director and Instructor, Nicole Carter, is always looking for new ways to engage her students.  One of the founders of the non-profit training institution, Latin American Youth Center Career Academy (LAYCCA) in Washington DC, Nicole says her work is hard but fun and the wins make it all worthwhile. But before you can have wins with students, you have to have engagement.

 ‘Medical assisting students worry about messing up or hurting somebody,’ she says.  Anxiety prevents some students from even trying procedures. Nicole wanted a training environment where her students could practice over and over in safety. Further, she wanted to use technology that would engage students. And that’s what she found in SIMTICS integrated cognitive simulations.

SIMTICS offers online simulations for medical assisting procedures (amongst other skills). Students can walk through procedures, making point-and-click decisions at every step, and receive immediate feedback. When Nicole found SIMTICS, she knew she’d found a solution to her problems. ‘I want you to understand that this was a need. This is a need within education, to grasp our students, to be innovative.’

As part of LAYCCA’s blended learning approach, it didn’t take long for Nicole to see the benefits of her investment. ‘I had a student who was horrible at drawing blood. No-one wanted her to practice on them. But within a week of practicing the venipuncture simulation in SIMTICS, her confidence had grown and she completed her first successful venipuncture. I was so proud!’

What sold Nicole on SIMTICS was the analytics the program offered on the effort and achievement of individual students for each procedure. Nicole says it takes the tension out of a personal conversation with students. ‘Showing them their results. The system does all the tracking and they know I can’t fiddle with it. I can see how long they were on; see that this is the skill that’s not working. And I can say, let’s look at what you’re doing wrong with that simulation. It helps personalize teaching. And it encourages them to take more personal responsibility for their learning and for their results.’

Alongside simulations, SIMTICS offers textual explanation of each procedure, pictures, anatomy models, and videos of experts performing the procedures. And this is a plus for Nicole. She finds the videos help students with their soft skills. They learn how to make a patient feel comfortable in a clinical environment. ‘This is important when you’re dealing with a range of patients; male students working with female patients, for example.’ Through practice and modelling, students become technically and professionally competent and confident.

Has SIMTICS lived up to Nicole’s expectations? ‘Definitely’, she says. ‘It helps us produce professional medical assistants and well-rounded people. Just make sure you say it’s fabulous!’

Editor’s Note: Nicole has left LAYCCA since this article was written, but remains a great fan of SIMTICS.

For more information about SIMTICS medical assisting modules see