The Future Is CALS: The Innovation of Nursing Education

Since July 2023, students at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Nursing have had a new focal point in their studies: immersive, leading-edge, simulation-based education at the Center for Advanced Learning and Simulation (CALS).

School of Nursing students practiced clinical skills in a realistic clinical setting at the Center for Advanced Learning and Simulation.

Not long ago, nursing education centered around lectures and book learning. Since July 2023, however, students at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Nursing have had a new focal point in their studies: immersive, leading-edge, simulation-based practice at the Center for Advanced Learning and Simulation (CALS). This innovative facility immerses students in realistic clinical scenarios and environments, opening up a new horizon of experiential learning in health care and nursing education. The Nursing Skills and Technology Center at CALS officially received LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans faculty and students on July 31, 2023, for an open house reception with tours and refreshments offered to mark the occasion.

Repurposing Space. Redefining Education.

CALS resides in the former Interim LSU Hospital, which closed when University Medical Center opened. The LSU Health Sciences Center recognized an opportunity to reimagine the space as a learning and simulation center, and CALS has been thoughtfully designed to retain realistic clinical aesthetics while meeting the educational needs of students and faculty.

Aimme McCauley, DNP, RN, CNE, CHSE, Interim Director of the Nursing Skills and Technology Center now housed at CALS, enthuses, “For example, the simulated emergency department is designed over the former hospital emergency department, and the simulation lab has been designed over what was formerly two patient care units. The seamless blend of hospital and academic environments is a game-changer for experiential learning. Students experience the urgency and rhythm of real-world clinical nursing in an interprofessional, simulated health care environment.”

The Center for Advanced Learning and Simulation is housed in the former Interim LSU Hospital.

“The realism of the simulation environment is unmatched. The workflow and layout of student activities has a truly authentic feel,” Dr. McCauley says. “The fidelity of the environment – its ability to mimic real-life clinical settings – and the independent control rooms empower our faculty to capture clinical realism, and our students to operate independently, nurturing an experience that’s as close to actual clinical experience as possible.”

Designed for growth, CALS comfortably accommodates 50% more students than the former hospital lab. It houses multiple dedicated training areas, including an Interprofessional Hospital Skills Lab and classroom, 10 specialized simulation rooms and three debriefing rooms. CALS also features a wellness center, classrooms, a dining lounge, an outdoor terrace and a 270-seat testing center.

CALS has revolutionized clinical education at the School of Nursing, providing a realistic, dynamic learning environment that is fulfilling its promise to prepare the next generation of nurses to meet the current and future needs of our global community.

High-Fidelity Simulation That Drives High-Impact Education

CALS boasts a plethora of simulated inpatient and outpatient clinical environments, reflecting a wide array of health care conditions. This vast landscape of realistic health care scenarios caters to numerous specialized and interprofessional domains, offering an unparalleled scope for simulation-based learning.

Furnished with medical equipment identical to real clinical environments, the School of Nursing Simulation Center at CALS provides students with experiential learning. They can hone their skills on diverse moderate- and high-fidelity simulators and review their activities and performance during debriefing sessions with faculty. The facility itself is a technological marvel, featuring state-of-the-art simulators, including a BD Pyxis™ medication station and a full complement of Alaris infusion pumps. It will soon include innovative audio, visual and video capture technology.

CALS includes high-fidelity health care environments, like this operating room, that mimic real-world clinical settings.

Dr. McCauley says, “CALS is equipped with all the essential elements to provide the highest-quality simulation-based learning experience.”

Further enhancing convenience for students, the popular independent student practice lab has more than doubled its hours of operation. This change allows students greater flexibility for deliberate practice and achieving nursing competency.

CALS is also primed for future growth, ready to incorporate upcoming medical and nursing advancements into its educational repertoire. This unique environment not only fosters interprofessional collaboration and communication across the LSU Health Sciences Center, but also enables advancements such as the School of Medicine’s development of the Standardized Patient area. This new feature will incorporate specialists portraying a variety of patient scenarios to provide live interactions with students, developing advanced communication and professionalism.

“Given its impact on patient health outcomes, the importance of realism, or ‘fidelity’ as referred to in the simulation world, cannot be overstated,” Dr. McCauley says. “We believe that the high expectations students have for themselves, their skills and their contributions to patient care and safety in their practicum environments will be equally present in the immersive setting of CALS.”

Boldly Navigating Toward the Future of Nursing

Another remarkable installation in the former Interim LSU Hospital building is the Wellness Center, a facility designed to nurture students’ well-being and promote personal wellness education. In recognition of the intense and demanding nature of the nursing program, the school is developing a unique wellness program tailored to address issues pertinent to our students. The program will feature a roster of wellness classes, including meditation.

Beyond immediate curricular enhancements, the school is also actively monitoring the advancement of artificial intelligence in health care, nursing and nursing education. A task force, spearheaded by the dean, is in the works to cultivate a philosophical perspective and construct a guiding framework regarding the integration and application of AI in the nursing field.

As the School of Nursing continues to champion the evolving needs of its students and the nursing profession, it remains deeply committed to staying on the leading edge of technological and educational advancements. With a bold vision and a keen eye on the future, the school is poised to harness the full potential of resources like CALS – and, perhaps one day, AI. In the words of Dr. McCauley, “The possibilities are boundless.”

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