SD training program seeks to improve rural nursing

The South Dakota State University (SDSU) College of Nursing seeks to improve nursing care in rural settings through a three-year, $1.09 million grant from the Department of Health & Human Services, News-Medical reports.

SDSU researchers, including associate professor Lois Tschetter; Nancy Fahrenwald, dean and former associate dean for research; and instructor Paula Lubeck, have built a simulation lab to teach students nursing skills specific to rural settings.

Rural nursing "is a different type of nursing," Linda Young, nursing specialist at the South Dakota Board of Nursing, told News-Medical.

Nurses who work in rural areas must provide comprehensive care to patients  "If you are the nurse on the floor, you are the respiratory therapist, the IV person and the wound care specialist," said Carmen Fees, director of nursing at Philip Health Service, a facility 80 miles east of Rapid City and 80 miles southwest of South Dakota's capital city, Pierre. 

The simulations cover several different settings, such as rural hospitals, rural clinics and large acute-care facilities. For example, if a patient comes into a small 20-bed hospital, the nurse will have to use telemedicine to get in touch with a large facility for guidance, Tschetter told News-Medical. The students act out the scenario using lab mannequins, review video of the simulation and identify what they did well and where they can improve. "Students can have experiences that they wouldn't get to be a part of in the hospital," she said. "And it's safe; no one gets hurt."

Recently, Tschetter said, pharmacy students took part in the simulations to reflect their increasing role in the care process, and the researchers hope to add nutrition and social work students with future funding. "We think our rural focus is unique and something we want to pull together, write about and make available to other schools," she said.

The state of rural care is a major concern in the healthcare industry. Not only do rural areas face a shortage of healthcare workers, they must also contend with states' failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and a report from HHS' Office of Inspector General that recommends decertification of certain critical access hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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