UIC courses simulate clinical environments to reveal practices and career challenges

CHICAGO, February 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The Illinois Medical District (IMD), two miles west of the Chicago Loop, is one of the world’s premier health technology centers. The 560-acre campus is home to four main hospitals and more than 40 innovative healthcare-related institutions. The College of Nursing University of Illinois at Chicago built its main building in the heart of the district in the 1960s. Today, UIC trains a new generation of nurses from a state-of-the-art simulation laboratory.

“When we have new students thinking of going to nursing school, we show them around this brand new, beautiful space, the Schwartz Lab, and they can see that it’s really close to real life by as a hospital, and they’re excited,” said Dr. Susan Kilroy, director of the Clinical Learning Resource Center at the UIC College of Nursing. “And we also emphasize to them that here at the UIC College of Nursing, we really create simulations, cases and skills, so we prepare them before they enter a clinical setting, and we also make them knowing that they have plenty of time to come to the lab and practice.”

Teach pandemic protocols

The nursing program is a pipeline for careers in the University of Illinois Hospital system and other institutions of the Medical District of Illinois, including top university Medical Center, John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

“Nurses play a vital role in the emergency room, operating room and in ongoing patient care,” said the executive director of the Illinois Medical District. Allyson J. Hansen. “Forward-looking programs like the Nursing Lab maintain the Illinois Medical District’s excellence in medical care and clinical research.”

Dr. Christine Schwartz’s experiential learning and simulation lab includes suites dedicated to medical and surgical practice and other vital clinical disciplines. Each semester, the 15,000 square foot lab trains more than 1,000 nursing students in 13 different courses.

“The pandemic has really forced us to work in small groups to think about things like personal protective equipment, cleaning, hand washing,” Kilroy said. “I often say to students, ‘These are things Florence Nightingale we’ve been talking about it for years, and now we’re really learning about it in real time.'”

Students can follow a diabetic patient from an examination in the emergency room, to admission to the intensive care unit, to an outpatient clinic. They may help a new mother in the delivery room and then do a home visit after delivery.

“The pandemic has changed the way I teach in the lab, in that I’ve had to become more flexible and have had to adapt more to student needs and faculty needs,” said Katie Vanderzwan, assistant clinical professor in the UIC College of Nursing. “Much of the migration to a Zoom or online platform must have happened at a rapid pace.”

The lab even captured the reality of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic as students interacted with medical actors on Zoom.

“It’s really something different for students to have to learn to do,” said Katie Stephens, Visiting Associate Professor at the UIC College of Nursing. “They can’t do their normal head-to-toe assessment on a patient, looking at them from head to toe. They actually have to ask more questions and walk the patient through how to do things on themselves.”

Training more nursing students at scale will be a critical response to the national nursing shortage – a shortage that has only been worsened by COVID-19. The lab staff also plans to open its doors to researchers, clinicians and other healthcare professionals from the IMD community.

“We are truly fortunate to be part of the Illinois Medical District,” Kilroy said. “If you think about it, just in this small space, a few square miles, we have several universities and colleges, and you just think of all the knowledge, skills and resources that we have.”

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About the Illinois Medical District (IMD)
IMD is a community of health, technology, and life science organizations in the heart of Chicago, two miles west of the Loop on 560 acres. Every day, more than 80,000 people visit IMD, including more than 29,000 employees. With $220 million in annual research funding, IMD generates $3.4 billion in economic activity each year. IMD offers partners a unique ecosystem of knowledge, collaboration and resources, plus something more: the opportunity to impact the world’s next great healthcare innovation district. Together, IMD partners are accelerating discovery and commercialization that reshape the practice of all life sciences, generating prosperity for all.

Kyle Foehner
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IMD logo (PRNewsfoto/Medical District of Illinois)



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SOURCE Medical District of Illinois