Luther College receives Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust grant to create a comprehensive Nursing Simulation Center

Luther College has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to support the creation of a comprehensive Nursing Simulation Center (NSC).

            "The Luther College mission statement declares that we prepare students to serve the common good. Right now, there is a boom in the number of young people interested in serving the world as nurses," says Kevin Kraus, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. "This grant, along with generous gifts from Luther alumni, will allow us to increase our high-tech nursing simulation laboratories to keep up with the surge in interest and best prepare our students for their future in serving others."

            The NSC will create additional real-life practice settings that will more closely simulate a hospital environment. This is achieved through patient simulators, simulation equipment and software and audiovisual technology.

            "Our entire department is elated to have received the news about this grant," says April Rowe Neal, associate professor of nursing and department head. "Currently, we have one simulation bay within the simulation lab in addition to an assessment lab. The NSC will expand our space to have four additional simulation rooms, which will feature new mannequins and other supporting equipment, such as IV pumps. The added space and new equipment will provide more opportunities for students to practice thinking and leading like a nurse."

            One student who has spent many hours actively learning in the simulation lab is Maria Sorensen. The senior nursing student says her experiences in the lab are invaluable to her education as a future health care provider. 

            "Simulation greatly enhances our nursing education because it builds our confidence as student nurses. In turn, this confidence allows us to enter a patient's room and connect with them in determining their plan of care. In clinicals as recent as last spring, nurses commented on my preparedness as a nursing student, which I attribute back to the patient simulation opportunities I was given in the nursing lab," says Sorensen.

            In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools of nursing have encountered difficulties fulfilling student clinical hours as some facilities, including long-term care, may not be able to provide for student learning while maintaining safety for patients, students and staff.

"The NSC gives us important flexibility in the midst of a pandemic to replace some hospital or care center-based clinical with simulated clinical. Beyond the pandemic, the NSC will help to prepare our graduates for the rapidly changing and increasingly complex healthcare system. Students will have more opportunities to make safe, patient-centered clinical decisions and serve as effective nurse leaders and feel safe in making mistakes," says Rowe Neal.

"When we moved online due to COVID-19, our education did not stop. In fact, our clinical experiences were able to continue because of this new technology that we were able to access remotely," says Sorensen. 

This project aligns well with the mission of the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, which supports biomedical and scientific research, scholarships and programs addressing the educational and recreational needs of youth. Based in Muscatine, the Carver Trust is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in Iowa.

The proposed comprehensive NSC is a $450,000 renovation and expansion project. Reflecting the urgency of this top institutional priority, Luther College has already invested $55,000 toward the purchase of four clinical skills patient simulators and software. In addition to this $200,000 grant, the college is actively fundraising. The NSC will add great value to Luther's already well-established program rooted in Northeast Iowa and Rochester, Minnesota.

"The Luther College Nursing Program has a longstanding history with regional Northeast Iowa clinical partners and Mayo Clinic, giving students clinical experiences in both rural and urban settings," says Angela Kueny, associate professor of nursing. "This unique aspect of our program allows students to then practice anywhere in the US. Additionally, the liberal arts background that frames our nursing program bridges students' learning about human expression and experiences with learning about physiological processes of disease. That is very powerful in practice, and employers notice the depth of our students' understanding of human conditions, health, and illness."

"I owe so much to the Luther College Nursing Department and am beyond grateful to have received the chance to experience a fraction of what this grant is able to offer to future nursing students," says Sorensen.  

Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu. 

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Luther College nursing students work in simulation lab