The Coastal Bend Health Education Center awarded $61,660 to the Del Mar College Department of Nursing Education for technology upgrades to its Nursing Lab Curriculum Support Expansion project.

The initiative focuses on continued support for the College's nursing simulation labs to "ensure a quality educational program that reflect the highest standards of excellence in nursing education and related health science programs," DMC officials said.

Under the leadership of department chair Bertie Almendarez, the project will provide access into health science programs for the Coastal Bend's predominately Hispanic population while aiming to close the gaps on the shortages of healthcare professionals in South Texas and across the state and nation.

"We appreciate the opportunity to apply for grants like this that allow us to give our students the most realistic experiences possible to prepare them better and assure competency before they perform on real patients," Almendarez said. "The quality of a patient's outcomes depends on how well the nurse is able to recognize patient changes and respond appropriately."

Almendarez said that the grant will be used to purchase technological upgrades to patient scenarios software used in labs that include the Noell birthing simulators, SimMan simulators and infant simulator. Almendarez added that the grant will also provide for another newborn simulator to allow more students to perform their work and be evaluated on their maternity nursing skills.

The set-up and implementation of the advanced training equipment is planned for this fall with integration into the department curriculum next spring.

"Students are evaluated using patient scenarios, such as caring for patients experiencing a myocardial infarction or heart attack," Almendarez said. "Other scenarios include caring for a patient after surgery and for their resulting dressings, drains, colostomies, amputations or whatever the situation may be."

Other upgrades include a pupil response system that will actually simulate a pupillary reaction as well as a cyanosis upgrade that causes the simulator to develop varying degrees of cyanosis, or blue coloration. The condition indicates a lack of oxygenation and will require students to make appropriate assessments and take action.

DMC faculty can create lab experiences using the simulators that are as realistic as possible for student practice. The process allows for students' mistakes and learning experiences that are not possible with live patients during training, Almendarez said.

Video, audio, data logs and patient monitoring automatically integrated from cameras and microphones allow students and faculty to review and evaluate performances, including reviews on campus or through distance learning technology in classrooms off-site.

And, as an answer to the growing enrollment in the college's health science programs, the grant will provide for another advanced video system to evaluate more students in those programs.

Other DMC health science students will also have access to the new technology.

"Our new technology upgrades will allow for more advanced training and better assessment of student performance not only in nursing but also for students majoring in other health sciences," Almendarez said.