Learning by simulation


Over her years at BYU, Patricia Ravert has spent a lot of time in the basement of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower. Without the rush of students during the semester, it can be a desolate area, however Ravert never has to worry about being lonely though, there are plenty of bodies to keep her company.

One of the first adopters of simulation in nursing, Ravert has successfully integrated high-tech mannequins into the nursing school curriculum. These models are state-of-the-art dummies that can be programmed to act the way a human would with a specific illness. They can also respond to treatments.

“These simulators really help in bridging the gap from the theoretical setting to the hospital,” Ravert said. “Every nursing student has clinical experiences each semester, but because they care for whoever is in the hospital at that time, they may not have the opportunity to care for someone with every disease or clinical problem.”

Ravert said she believes integrating simulators into the curriculum has given students the opportunity to have the closest to real-life encounters. With simulators that can hemorrhage and even give birth, a hands-on experience is not hard to get.

“Our students spend a lot of time learning in real hospitals, but we can’t control what patients are in that day,” Ravert said. “We might spend time learning about a particular illness but there’s no guarantee that they will get to work on a patient with that illness. This is where simulators are extremely useful. We can program them to do what we want the students to practice.”

Ravert is the founder of high-fidelity simulation in BYU’s nursing curriculum and has spent years cultivating this idea and working to perfect it.

She earned her undergraduate degree at BYU and spent time working at the Intermountain Healthcare as a medical surgical nurse. Ravert began her tenure at BYU in 1999 while studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Utah.

“When I first started here, I was given the task of working with the simulators and back then, they were very new and not many programs even used them,” Ravert said.

She delved in and began the work she now continues. The halls of the SWKT basement are now riddled with rooms that make one feel as though they have stepped into a hospital room full of patients.

Students new and old know of Ravert and her work with simulators. Katie Duncan is a BYU graduate and witness to Ravert’s impact on learning.

“As an undergrad in the nursing program, I was hired as a teaching assistant in the simulation lab,” Duncan said. “I prepared the high-fidelity simulators for labs for undergraduate students and operated them during the lab itself. This is where I first got to know Patty. She has done incredible things in the area of simulation for both the BYU College of Nursing and across the country and I felt privileged to work with her.”

Colleen Tingey works with Ravert in the Nursing Learning Center and can attest to it’s importance in the education of their students. She also sees the impact Ravert has on the students through this program.

“Patty really provides the vision for it all,” Tingey said. “She created the basis of what we have going on today. What she does that is a little different, but very successful, is let the students run the simulators. She has the students fundamentally involved in the process of that development.”

Ravert decided to hang up her scrubs and retire as a clinical nurse two years ago. She now dedicates all of her time to her work at BYU as well as her national work with simulation. She works with 20 other nurse educators from other universities, two of which are international, in helping to analyze and refine a framework to guide simulation use healthcare curricula.

Because of her extraordinary work with simulation, as well as her dedication and prestige as a nurse, Ravert was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing last year.

“This honor is one of the highest honors you can receive as a nurse and educator,” Ravert said. “It really is the pinnacle of a nursing career. I feel very privileged to be given such an award.”

Although retired from clinical nursing, Ravert is excited to continue her work at BYU. She and her colleagues are working to improve the Nursing Learning Center with an approved revision of the lab. With a revised facility, Ravert said she believes more students will be able to get better hands-on experience in the labs.

“The thing that she does better than anybody I’ve ever seen is that she teaches people what they need to know and she lets them fulfill their potential,” Tingey said. “She allows other people’s ideas to move forward. She’s not only been a mentor to me, but to many students who have come through the program.”

Ravert will be speaking at the BYU devotional Tuesday, July 10, in the de Jong Concert Hall.


Info Box

Key features of high-fidelity patient simulators(as stated in METI’s website):

  1. Pupils automatically dilate and constrict in response to light
  2. Thumb twitch in response to a peripheral nerve stimulator
  3. Automatic recognition and response to administered drugs and drug dosages
  4. Variable lung compliance and airways resistance
  5. Automatic response to needle decompression of a tension pneumothorax, chest tube drainage and pericardiocentesis
  6. Automatic control of urine output
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