UNH opens healthcare simulation center to address worker shortages 

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Cassie Hollasch

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) officially opened the College of Health and Human Services’ Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC). Construction for the facility began in November 2020 and was finished this past summer. On Nov. 4, UNH celebrated the project’s completion with speeches from New Hampshire government officials and Health and Human Services’ department personnel. Attendees were also given a tour of the new facility.  

HSCC is the result of the $9 million given to UNH in 2019 to address the state’s healthcare worker shortage.  According to a December 2018 survey, over 2,000 healthcare worker vacancies existed in hospitals and community mental health centers across New Hampshire. This situation was only worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“It’s not just training a student and hoping they stick with us. It’s training a student for the exact needs the state has and it’s that inter-collaboration here at UNH and across the state that is so integral,” explained Gov. Chris Sununu during the ceremony.  

The over 20,000 square foot structure includes offices, classrooms, labs, and fully-equipped simulation rooms that mimic hospitals, clinics, primary care facilities, and other health care settings.  

“I think it’s awesome that we get the experience in low-stress environments to address these things on fake patients before we have to on real patients,” said senior nursing major Alex Carbone. He explained that the environment also offers students a safe space to learn from mistakes without real-world consequences.  

“If I was to make a mistake in [a simulation], it sticks with me for such a long time that if I was ever to encounter a situation like it in real life I wouldn’t,” said Carbone.  

A typical simulation experience begins with a student, or a team of students, being given a report about the patient about a week prior. Students can then prepare for the skills they are going to be tested on and practice in one of the labs.  Upon entering the 30-minute simulation, the student will have access to health records, medications, and equipment to manage the unfolding scenario. An instructor will also be able to control a high-fidelity mannequin in response to how students interact with it. Actors may also be used depending on the scenario.  

The simulations are recorded so students can review their performance during the debriefing session.  

Michael Ferrara, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, also stressed the range of care experiences that HSSC provides from emergency trauma, newborn care, proper bathing and toileting to routine illness and injury check-ups.  

Carbone praised the center for its variety and believes it will help nursing students figure out and get more experience in the type of care they want to specialize in before going out into the field.  “Hospitals will [also] be glad to take them because they’ll have that experience that students from other schools wouldn’t have,” he said.  

In addition to training nursing majors, Ferrara explained HSCC will also encourage interdisciplinary cooperation as students majoring in other health fields, including occupational therapy, nutrition, exercise sciences, etc., will also have opportunities to work with each other in the center.  

“I’m very happy and fortunate to have had this one year in that building. But I’m also overjoyed for the future [and] the Wildcats coming through getting to use it and working with them one day when they graduate,” said Carbone.