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State-of-the-art lab provides unique learning space for healthcare students

February 5, 2021

From the brushed nickel bathroom faucets to the shaker-style kitchen cabinets, the Community College of Rhode Island left no stone unturned in the development of its new Community Health Laboratory, a unique learning space that will transform the way students and healthcare professionals learn how to care for patients in the home care setting.

Located at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln, the lab is designed as a studio apartment, a 12’ x 22’ space with a fully-furnished kitchen, bathroom, and living area designed to provide students and current professionals in continuing education programs with the ideal setting for simulating home health care scenarios. The lab is equipped with five surveillance cameras that record and live stream video and audio for debriefing and evaluation purposes following the simulation.

With support and funding from the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services – and the college’s Healthcare Workforce Transformation Initiatives grant – the lab will serve students and professionals in a wide variety of health science and human service fields, including Nursing, Dental, Occupational and Physical Therapy, and Social Work.

A concept more than a year in the making, the new lab space officially launches this month. Other than a similar lab located at the Rhode Island Nurses Education Center in Providence, no other college or university in the state offers a comparable real-time experience.

“Our health students will have the opportunity to learn in this community setting to better prepare for real-life experiences in the home,” said Dean of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences, Suzanne Carr, PhD, RN. “This lab will allow students to collaborate with a multi- disciplinary approach to rehabilitation”

In recent years, the vital role of community-based health care has been recognized as integral to early recognition and management of health issues. This includes both social determinants of health and population health, which have become an important part of healthcare education. The development of this simulation lab built at the CCRI Flanagan campus will be instrumental in closing knowledge and skill gaps in the home health setting.

“The Community Health Laboratory provides an innovative resource for focused education in home care, community and population health,” said Donna Donilon, PhD, RN, CCRI’s Executive Director of the Healthcare Workforce Transformation Initiatives grant.

“With the ever-growing need for health care in these areas, this space has great potential for the use of creative, realistic case scenarios to enhance learning.”

The newly-launched lab will also assist in the college’s continuous effort to promote Interprofessional Educational (IPE) between multiple departments. Case scenarios have been developed that are tailored to include members of the interprofessional team in providing care, including, for example, an accredited case scenario written by Mackenzie Johnson, MSN, RN, CCRI’s Program Director for Continuing Education for Nursing & Allied Health, in which nurses provide a home health visit to a patient recently discharged from the hospital.

The participants in the simulation will be tasked with the patient’s home health assessment, which includes tracking the patient’s medication dosage in addition to possibly rearranging items within the apartment – a rug, for example – to avoid any potential tripping hazards during the patient’s recovery. The simulation also introduces a scenario that involves emergency intervention, at which point the participants have to divide responsibilities between providing care to the patient and calling 9-1-1, all while a supervisor or faculty member looks on from another room evaluating their assessments, responses, and interventions.

“This new development at CCRI provides students with the unique experience to gain insight into a patient’s home life and also practice providing assessments and care in a realistic environment,” said Kristen Fournier, MBA, Program Director of Healthcare Workforce Transformation. “Students will have the opportunity to review their simulation with a faculty member and debrief on their experience, ultimately making them more successful when they start going out to patient homes.”

The lab simulations allow students to work in high-leverage situations where they’re forced to think on their feet and react the same way they would in real time. The trickle-down effect is sending better-prepared healthcare students into the workforce, or equipping current professionals with the necessary skills to increase their value.

Given the lab’s versatility, there are endless possibilities for students and practicing health care professionals to learn and understand home health care, which is widely considered a more cost-effective, convenient alternative to hospital or facility care.

“Our vision for the state’s Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) system includes fostering a more balanced, sustainable, and responsive continuum of long-term care services that delivers the right person-centered support, at the right time, and the right cost, while promoting choice, community and quality of life for Rhode Island elders and disabled residents,” said State Medicaid Director Benjamin Shaffer. “This vision includes more access to care options at home, and CCRI’s new Community Health Laboratory will go a long way in helping train the next generation of critically-needed home health care employees.”

The Healthcare Workforce Transformation Initiatives team is actively working with the Health and Human Services department administration to determine best practices for incorporating lab simulations and case studies into the current curriculum. An ongoing partnership with the college’s Division of Workforce Partnerships allows the college to explore ways the Community Health Laboratory will be utilized in continuing education programming, certifications, and orientations for current healthcare workers to provide them the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill set.

This new initiative keeps CCRI at the forefront of providing exceptional educational opportunities to students and professionals within the healthcare industry and community.

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