Medical Assisting Students Deserve Simulation-Based Learning Too !

Chattahoochee Valley Community College is a small institution, part of a system of 24 colleges across the state of Alabama. Known as something of a jewel in the local community, the college is nestled in the woods in Phenix City, just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Georgia.

The college services a large area which includes a lot of rural communities, and students from Georgia enroll too. The demographic mix includes a lot of first-generation college students, mainly traditional students recently graduated from high school, but also non-traditional, with people wanting a career change after severance. The college also welcomes military service personnel and spouses from Fort Benning.

Shelly Holt is the Medical Assisting Program Director and also teaches the CNA program. She first came across SIMTICS Medical Assisting skill simulations at an ABHES conference in early 2016 and was excited to see a resource like this that is designed specifically for MA students, when many other products are targeted at nursing students.

Shelly explains that the challenge for MA students is that they don’t have a clinical preceptor with them, unlike student nurses. They are typically put straight in to a doctor’s office and expected to do whatever is asked of them.

“We have this mindset that nursing students have to be uber-super-prepared, but other types of students, like those studying Medical Assisting, need the ability to build that level of confidence too.”

From what she saw at the ABHES conference, Shelly knew that SIMTICS would be a valuable education resource for her students. “We were already doing a good job in our program, but I was convinced this would make it even better.”

When she presented it to her administration, her request was turned down, because of budget limitations. However, she was undeterred. As an interim step, she purchased a subscription and displayed SIMTICS modules on a big screen in her classroom so her students could see the videos, anatomy and simulations to support their learning.

“They really enjoyed it. They’d watch me controlling the mouse and come up to me, saying, ‘please let me do it’.”

When COVID came in the Spring of 2020, the faculty and students had to shift to a distance learning format with almost no notice – it was announced on a Thursday that the campus would be closed on Monday. It was a shock because the college was residential, campus-based, and did most of its instruction traditionally. Compounding the challenge further was that Shelly’s students were about to start the lab portion of their phlebotomy course.

The question was: how would the students graduate if they could not have the usual lab time?

Shelly knew the solution and seized the opportunity to propose SIMTICS to the college administration again. This time they were eager to do whatever they could to help the affected students get through the challenges posed by the pandemic, and federal funding became available.

“Adopting SIMTICS was crucial for those students,” she says. From her spring cohort of six students, four of them were immediately hired, despite the COVID situation.

And for the certification exam, she’s proud that 10 of 11 passed on their first attempt. “Many of the students specifically commented that SIMTICS helped them to achieve that result. I wasn’t expecting to hear that.”

In summer, the college approved on-campus labs with appropriate social distancing and other infection control measures in place. Despite the return to in-person labs, Shelly finds that SIMTICS is still very instrumental in her students’ success.

Where it had originally been adopted as a “replacement” when labs were not available, SIMTICS then became “preparation” for labs. Shelly says this is providing an unexpected benefit: “Rather than dreaming up scenarios in their heads and creating anxiety, the students can see in SIMTICS exactly what they’ll be doing when they get to the lab.”

Shelly has also noticed that her students are significantly more confident now that they have access to SIMTICS.

“In lab, some are quite nervous and unsure of themselves but they may not voice those feelings. Now they can go back to SIMTICS as many times as they want, which builds their confidence. And even after the lab is over, they still have access. My students absolutely love it. And although we have a calendar and a set syllabus, a lot of them learn ahead, because they want to.”

Another benefit Shelly has experienced is that SIMTICS has helped to cut down some of the teaching time.

“Our phlebotomy course is growing, and when you have 12 or 13 students with only one instructor, if they can’t practice first, it takes a lot more one-on-one time with the instructor. Often I had to stay back in lab longer or open the lab up again. SIMTICS has cut down on that. Students arrive with knowledge, because the simulations and other materials prepare them for what they’re going to be doing.”

Shelly can easily see that her students love SIMTICS, since it is evident in how they use the resource. “They don’t just do their study early, they really enjoy having something they can return to later. Especially when it’s time to go to preceptorship, they can go back to SIMTICS and refresh their skills.”

As a nurse by training, Shelly also appreciates that SIMTICS modules include the relevant anatomy and physiology as part of the whole experience of learning medical procedures. “It’s important that the students not only know how to do something, but the rationale behind it; what’s going on here. It helps them to connect the dots.”

We ended the interview by asking Shelly our normal closing question: What would you say to someone who is considering whether to adopt SIMTICS for their program?

Shelly laughed. “That’s easy! I’d say, ‘pull over a chair and I’ll show you how this can assist your students and enhance your life as an instructor.”

The SimTutor team would like to thank Shelly Holt for her time and assistance to tell her story here.

Check out Chattahoochee Valley Community College

Find out more about SIMTICS Medical Assisting

Read about the benefits of SIMTICS for educators and institutions

Right Now Nursing extends the reach and effectiveness of Limited Obstetric Nursing education with SIMTICS web-based simulations

Cindy Parke, owner of PEC

Cindy Parke, RNC, CNM, MSN leads a busy life. Certified nurse-midwife, educator and clinician, she took over management of Professional Education Center with her husband in 2010. Now called Right Now Nursing (RNNCEs), the company is devoted to continuing nursing and midwifery education specific to the field of Obstetrics, and since its inception has provided this type of education to over 1 million nurses.

Through RNNCEs, Cindy brings her years of clinical and lecturing experience in women’s health, pregnancy, fetal monitoring, and childbirth topics to nurses and other health professionals nationwide. An active member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses, Sigma Theta Tau and the International Cesarean Awareness Network, her focus is on comprehensive maternal/fetal care throughout the labor and delivery process.

Cindy has a clear vision for her education business: the ultimate goal is to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity.  She firmly believes that much rests on the skills of the nurse. 

RNNCE’s continuing education provides valuable knowledge that can be used daily in an OB practice. Their seminars have always been designed to be clinically focused, patient-centered, and result-oriented; from recognizing normal labor, ongoing assessment for risks, choosing appropriate interventions, and responding to both the normal and the critical clinical challenges.  And as you might expect, Continuing Education (CE) credits are available on completion of all their seminars and on-line educational products.

But, since they are working in a competitive market, Cindy wanted to offer more to meet the needs of their students.  In her team’s search to achieve that, early in 2014 one of Cindy’s OB ultrasound educators came across SIMTICS, an innovative education product that was just entering the US market at that time. Offering interactive web-based simulations for learning and practicing ultrasound scanning, including OB, SIMTICS seemed like it could be a perfect addition to their own seminar-based nurse education offerings.

After a thorough evaluation, Cindy decided to adopt the product into her programs and today SIMTICS is what she calls “an essential component” of their Limited Women’s and OB Ultrasound education. Now the company offers a variety of educational resources including Home Study Units, Webinars, Live Seminars, and on-line study utilizing SIMTICS web-based simulations, as part of RNNCEs “Ultimate Ultrasound Training Menu”.

Today SIMTICS is what Cindy calls “an essential component” of her Limited Women’s and OB Ultrasound education.

“From the beginning we used the SIMTICS modules as an adjunct for self-study. But then with assistance and permission, we began utilizing the graphics and ultrasound pictures within our lecture slides to further explain concepts. That has been very successful.”  Cindy and her instructors also utilize videos from the modules as a summary of sections of their lectures, and have added components of the modules, with acknowledgement, within their InPatient OB Review, Maternal Newborn Review, and EFM Review seminars as well.

“Finding excellent graphics for this type of education is difficult,” she explains.  “I go to SIMTICS first when looking for something to illustrate or explain a concept, and I’m amazed at the updates and additional details that I can utilize.”

RNNCE’s student audience for limited ultrasound is national and diverse, composed of nurses, midwives, and physicians.  Students typically attend live seminars, where they may have utilized a SIMTICS module as prep for the on-site seminar. During the seminar, an instructor utilizes relevant SIMTICS modules to demonstrate key concepts. RNNCE’s educators have also blended the use of SIMTICS modules with a webinar education series. This has been utilized without follow up, and also prior to check-offs of skills done by an instructor on site. 

“SIMTICS is modular which provides a great deal of flexibility and affordability,” says Cindy. “This is most important to the small hospital or midwifery group. They cannot manage for their staff to take time away for a conference, but they still need to refine the skills of limited OB ultrasound into practice.”

Trainees can study within their own time constraints, using relevant SIMTICS modules.  Ideally, then there is follow up by an educator including an onsite observation of a full exam to reinforce concepts. Cindy explains that this hybrid approach is very cost-effective for her customers, since a lot of pre-learning can be done by the students before any face-to-face instructional time.

Screenshot from SIMTICS showing scan of second trimester
Screenshot of a SIMTICS obstetric ultrasound simulation

Since adopting SIMTICS, Cindy has noticed significant positive change for her students, including the ability for them to demonstrate a level of competency through showing proficiency in the web-based simulations. “We had the request for hands on learning with our seminars for years, and SIMTICS provided the first opportunity to do this!”

We asked Cindy what made her feel comfortable to put such a reliance on SIMTICS in her business. “Obvious quality and the pricing were the first draw. Then the special attention in set-up that I received from the company was the crown on our initial decision to move to utilizing SIMTICS. That sense of personal attention has never changed as a customer, whoever at SimTutor is interacting with myself or my staff.  In addition, the continued quality improvements always make me proud to offer the product to my learners.”

Cindy was open about the initial learning curve required for some of her students utilizing this type of education technology. “Honestly, sometimes they are not patient with their computer and mouse, and have not read the instructions we provide! However, once they get that together, they just fly though the concepts.”

She points out that utilizing ultrasound in practice is a new skill and language for many of her students.  “SIMTICS, with the self-learning and anytime access, combined with the ease of repetition, is so very helpful to learners. They can take the time they need to become familiar with these new skills and terminology. I am confident to offer the use of SIMTICS to students for self-study, prior to my going to a clinical site to provide education.” 

“Do not hesitate! I consider my decision to utilize SIMTICS one of the best I have made as Director of RNNCEs!!” — Cindy Parke

We asked Cindy what advice she would give to anyone who is considering whether to adopt SIMTICS for their programs. Cindy was clear on the benefits. “For me, as an educator, SIMTICS makes my life so much easier and my teaching more effective. When students have used the SIMTICS simulations first, we move through concepts and the hand skills in the face-to-face sessions with much greater speed. This reduces the cost to the institution. And as a business owner, the quality of SIMTICS is a smart reflection on my company that we are able to offer this high quality learning resource.”

SimTutor would like to thank Cindy for her time in this interview, and most of all for being one of our long-term customers since 2014!

If you are interested in earning continuing education credits, up to 44 Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) Credits are available for SIMTICS obstetric & female ultrasound modules through RNNCEs. For further information, please visit the ultrasound training page on RNNCE’s website.