SimChart®’s realism prepares nursing students at Washburn University to work in the clinical environment

Nurses clapping

SimChart® is the closest thing I’ve seen to an electronic health record used in the hospital,” says Jeanne Catanzaro, MSN, RN, assistant professor of nursing at Washburn University. “I think having the experience of using SimChart is going to assist students when they graduate by making them less stressed and anxious about using this type of documentation tool.”

Accessing in the Clinical Area

Washburn saw a need for an electronic health record educational, so they decided to adopt SimChart.

SimChart is web-based, so students and faculty can use it anywhere internet is available. Many students at Washburn access SimChart on their laptops in the clinical area. “Instead of waiting until they get home to do all their documentation, they periodically upload information to their client’s care plan,” says Catanzaro. “SimChart becomes their working tool, simulating how nurses use a hospital electronic health record in their jobs every day.” Students also enjoy the benefits of SimChart in the school’s health assessment and simulation lab.

Taking a Hands-On Approach

She advises faculty who are planning to implement SimChart, “You are never going to find a perfect way to integrate this; a way that makes both the students and the faculty happy.” Instead of striving for perfection, “Like any software, you have to release it and get everybody going. Hands on is the way students and faculty become comfortable with it. In January, we released SimChart with our freshman students and faculty. We will continue to phase in at each level and then only with the new incoming classes.”

You will likely find that a formal student orientation class is necessary to introduce the program. Students at Washburn first learn about SimChart in their initial Nursing Concepts course. Support tools for SimChart, such as webinars and training videos, help explain the program. Catanzaro adds that the Elsevier representative is an excellent resource for training, including useful handouts.

Faculty and students need to be flexible and patient as they learn to take full advantage of SimChart’s features. “There is a transition period when students go from paper charting to charting on an electronic health record,” says Catanzaro. “It’s the same transition discomfort that nurses experience in the hospital. Once they make the transition, they will be able to see the whole picture, and once they are acclimated, their charting skills are going to improve immensely.”

Researching SimChart’s Benefits

One of the benefits of using SimChart within the BSN curriculum is that it adds to the repertoire of educational tools that help emphasize the importance of critical thinking. Working with SimChart is a perfect fit for Catanzaro, who is working on her doctorate in educational technology and e-learning—her dissertation will be on how simulation products such as SimChart affect critical thinking. “There is a lot of literature out there on simulation and how it improves critical thinking,” she says. “Anecdotal reports have found that academic electronic health records such as SimChart improves critical thinking, but it lacks empirical support at this time.” She plans to focus on how an academic electronic health record such as SimChart correlates with critical thinking skills. Those enrolled in the study would be assessed before and after using SimChart.

Planning the Future

The next step is to integrate SimChart as a tool in the classroom. Catanzaro currently posts her content lectures online before class so students can prepare and then uses the time in the classroom for group work on clinical case studies. “For classes starting in the fall, I would like to integrate my current case studies into SimChart” she says. For example, one case study might be related to objective and subjective assessment of a patient with newly diagnosed heart failure who is admitted to the emergency department with dyspnea. The application piece is to ask the student critical thinking questions such as what to assess with this client, discuss the nursing management and have them document their assessment findings using SimChart. Using case studies integrated with SimChart makes it real. The classroom utilization of SimChart would mirror her use of SimChart in the clinical setting.

SimChart is a great product,” Catanzaro sums up. “I’m excited about the direction we’re going with it; it’s going to continue to be extremely beneficial.”