Enriching sonography students’ learning and confidence with e-simulations.

I’ve never spoken to an educator who doesn’t want the best possible learning experience for their students. That ambition to deliver a comprehensive, engaging and enjoyable educational experience is certainly shared by the instructors at the Kettering College Sonography program.

Kettering offers a degree program with training in four modalities of sonography, covering Abdomen, Cardiac, OB/Gyn and Vascular. Students complete two years of clinical training that averages three days a week plus they have two days every week in the classroom. With the students also having access to a variety of educational resources including phantoms and a physical OB scanning simulator on campus, Kettering’s program seems really well set up. So you might wonder how including web-based e-simulations could possibly add value to the student experience.

Kettering’s instructors work with the students for the first month of the program three days a week in the scan lab, practicing the abdominal and vascular exams they will encounter in the clinical setting, but they did not have any type of simulator or training resources that would allow the students to work outside of class and lab time on continuing to develop their scanning technique and ultrasound knowledge base. The first few months of the program are a particularly important time, when the student needs to learn all the ultrasound basics and get hands on training in order to build a foundation for learning sonography. The instructors wanted to support their students better during this critical learning time.

Sonography-Training-and-Spatial-AbilityNow, after four years of delivering their program incorporating SIMTICS simulations, the folk at Kettering are clear. ‘It’s become a key part of the way we offer and teach this program. We use SIMTICS to give students an opportunity to prepare for and continue building their scanning techniques and comprehension outside of the classroom. It’s perfect because they can use the SIMTICS software at any time and anywhere to practice their sonographic skills,’ says Associate Professor, Rachel Moutoux. ‘That is one of the most outstanding aspects of the product.’

SIMTICS e-simulations demand accuracy through every stage of a technique – from set-up, to positioning the patient, and manipulating the probe to obtain the required images.  In learn mode, students can run through a simulated procedure, making point-and-click decisions at every step, as many times as they need to, getting guidance and corrective feedback from the system along the way. Each learning attempt is scored and tracked in the logbook, so the students can see their own progress as they build their competence. And when they are ready, they can test themselves with the test-mode simulations and quizzes, and check the logbook to see exactly where they need to improve.

As well as the simulations, the students can review the didactic information for each procedure or protocol via the integrated videos of experts performing a technique, narrative explanations of a technique, and models of the anatomy pertinent to each technique.

Offering twenty-four-hour access to practice for students has become one of the big draw cards for Kettering’s program. ‘Students really appreciate the fact that we have a training program that can be accessed from home, day or night. This has benefited the school for the marketing of our program, since it makes more attractive to potential students.’

For students beginning the program, SIMTICS helps them gain confidence in scanning techniques and protocols. ‘We have also found many students will use SIMTICS to help brush up on their skills prior to going to a new clinical rotation in a modality they have not been scanning,’ adds Rachel.

The benefits of SIMTICS e-simulation stack up for faculty too. Instructors report an increase in student understanding of sonography protocols and scanning techniques that complements classroom instruction. The interactive simulation aspect engages students in their learning and keeps them motivated to practice outside of class, which makes the teachers’ jobs more rewarding. Instructors have also found the supporting elements of the SIMTICS package very valuable as well. ‘The videos and reading for each topic are also helpful in class, as they reinforce classroomtopics. ’

No program can offer supervised lab-time for students 24/7. But giving students access to a virtual ultrasound lab through guided e-simulations results in more confident students and a more attractive education offer.

Rachel Moutoux has some final words: ‘We have not seen another training program like SIMTICS and really value what it has to offer our students.’

For more information about SIMTICS sonography simulations see SIMTICS.com. Simulations are also available for radiography, medical assisting, dental assisting, basic life support, and other medical and nursing procedures.