LRSC nursing program gets $105,000 grant from Otto Bremer Foundation

Staff reports
Left to right: Cheri Weisz and Gail Olafson, LRSC nursing instructors; Karen Clementich, LRSC nursing coordinator, Jim Helgeson, president of Bremer Bank, Devils Lake and Mike Bower, president of LRSC.

Special to the Journal

Lake Region State College’s nursing program recently received a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation.

The grant project “Strengthening Healthcare Education with Patient Simulation Technology,” provides $105,000 and will allow LRSC to deliver additional and enhanced educational opportunities for student nurses and incumbent healthcare workers in the northeast quadrant of North Dakota. With these funds, the program will be able to purchase high-fidelity simulation equipment,  which allows students hands- on experience with high risk patients, said Karen Clementich, nursing coordinator at LRSC.

“This grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation will have a positive impact on nursing education at LRSC. Simulation allows students to synthesize data from actual patient problems, make clinical decisions and reflect on the outcome of the simulation whether positive or negative,” Clementich said.

Risks to clients are eliminated because the simulation takes place in a safe environment on patient simulators. Evaluations from students report that they receive increased confidence, enhance critical reasoning skills and feel increased appreciation for safety concerns in the clinical area, she said. She also states that adding studies on simulators is important to nursing education because of the increased complexity surrounding the health care system.

“Using simulation provides another environment for nurse educators to prepare nurses to integrate information learned in the classroom into practice, work collaboratively with interdisciplinary team members and to provide safe and ethical care.”

Simulators will be used to provide clinical experiences for student nurses and for incumbent healthcare workers. Access to this equipment will also allow LRSC to respond to healthcare industry requests that the college enroll more nursing students.

Presently, enrollment is capped by limits on access to clinical sites in healthcare facilities. By using patient simulation technology rather than live patients to provide up to 25 percent of clinical experiences, the college could enroll more students.

Nursing program faculty also believe that effective use of patient simulation will support increased enrollment at a time when there is a significant shortage of nursing professionals in rural areas.

“Access to quality healthcare resources is a priority concern for those who live in LRSC’s immediate service area as well as throughout the state,” Clementich said.

That concern is what spurred Lake Region State College, Bismarck State College and Williston State College to team up in 2001 on a collaborative practical nursing program, the Dakota Nursing Program.  Since then, it has become one of the most popular programs at LRSC and continues to have strong enrollment as the demand for nurses throughout the state and nation remains high, Clementich said.

“We’ve seen some transformations in the program since 2001. Entry into practice requirements changed and more colleges (Dakota College at Bottineau and Fort Berthold Community College) joined the Dakota Nursing Program, but what is most impressive is to witness how these students and this program is impacting health care in northeast North Dakota and statewide by addressing the critical need for nurses in a variety of healthcare settings,” she said.

Graduates working in ND

As part of the Dakota Nursing Program, LRSC had its first graduating class in 2003. In that time frame Lake Region State College has produced great results, Clementich said.

A few key facts include:

• Practical Nursing – there are 167 graduates with 150 (97 percent) working as practical nurses in North Dakota or those nurses have returned to school for their RN

• Registered Nurse – there are 75 graduates with 66 (88 percent) working in North Dakota as registered nurses

• At least 75 percent  of practical nurse graduates go on to RN programs

• Most graduates of the program remain in rural NE North Dakota.