School of Nursing Hosts Statewide Simulation Conference

Eighth annual VASSA conference explores using simulation to improve health care.
VASSA Conference
August 05, 2013

More than 90 health professionals attended the eighth annual Virginia State Simulation Alliance (VASSA) conference, hosted by the George Washington University’s School of Nursing on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC). The two-day event, held on July 31 and Aug. 1, was packed with group sessions, multidisciplinary workshops and panels to study how simulation can improve health care delivery.

Each year, VASSA holds a conference at a different educational facility. The goal is to bring together professionals from a range of health care disciplines and encourage an exchange of ideas about how to use simulation to improve patient outcome.

“Based on research and educational principles, people learn by doing,” said Reba M. Childress, director of VASSA. “Simulation provides strategies we can incorporate into our learning opportunities to help students and practitioners improve their performance.”

The VASSA team worked with Patricia Davis, director of GW’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Laboratory; Billinda Tebbenhoff, director of GW’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing; and other leaders at the School of Nursing to prepare interactive sessions that included simulation scenarios. Attendees were also given a chance to tour the School of Nursing’s Skills and Simulation Laboratory during a reception.

“Overwhelmingly, people were pleased with what the conference offered. People were excited about walking away with lots of practical things they could implement into their jobs,” Ms. Davis said.

"Use of simulation and standardized patients in nurse education has revolutionized the student learning experience," said Jean Johnson, dean of the School of Nursing. "With the leadership of Reba Childress and Patricia Davis, GW hosted a very successful meeting."

Check out highlights from the conference in the photos below.

The conference drew health professionals from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and Pennsylvania. “It was a chance to bring in people who are creating these sciences together and give them a chance to work collaboratively and inter-professionally to advance simulation,” said Ms. Tebbenhoff.

Sim Mom, pictured above, is one of 21 mannequins at the nursing school’s Sim Lab. She is used for practicing OB/GYN scenarios. Sim Mom made several appearances during simulations tailored for the conference. 

In one session, Sim Mom developed a blood clot. Through audience participation, conference attendees were able to interact and help treat her. 

Simulation scenarios, like the one pictured above, give students “the opportunity to reflect, critically think and reason through scenarios,” said Ms. Childress. “You can’t change behavior with someone simply talking to you, but you can change behavior through action.”

When Sim Mom went into cardiac arrest, the VSTC team had arranged for Loudoun County’s EMTs to be on the ready. They rushed in and used their emergency response skills to get her to an ambulance.

During a tour of the Sim Lab, participants found Sim Mom safe and sound, nursing her newborn baby.

Several sessions covered communication and teamwork skills. Moderators discussed the importance of establishing relationships with both colleagues and patients.

Professionals were able to attend a two-part workshop on debriefing, where faculty and students analyzed sessions and reflected on their actions. “A lot of learning occurs in debriefing sessions,” said Ms. Davis. “It’s a skill and an art that helps students develop critical thinking.”

Ms. Davis donned a costume and took on the character of patient Minnie Paxton, the first superintendent of GW’s nursing school, to show conference attendees the intricacies of geriatric care.