UAA Celebrates Healthcare Simulation Week 2022

by Vicki Nechodomu  |   


Simulation is changing the way healthcare professionals learn and improve patient care


The University of Alaska Anchorage Interprofessional Health Sciences Simulation Center (IHSSC) invites the UAA and broader Anchorage community to join the global celebration of Healthcare Simulation Week September 12-16, 2022. 

The UAA IHSSC is housed in the Health Sciences Building and is composed of three high fidelity simulation rooms and a control room where their team provides interprofessional simulations through manikin-based and actor-based scenarios.  

The adoption of simulation in healthcare education allows learners to practice and apply information taught in the classroom in carefully created, realistic patient care scenarios; in a safe environment for both the learner and the patient,” said Gavin Gardner, Director of the UAA Interprofessional Health Sciences Simulation Center. “By utilizing the tools, techniques, and strategies available in simulation, students can engage in the delivery of patient care while ensuring there is no risk to the patient. Students can make mistakes and learn from them before ever stepping foot into a healthcare setting.”

Simulation opportunities have supplemented and enhanced clinical learning experiences, by fostering and developing critical thinking skills, utilizing experiential learning and guided by structured debriefings,” said School of Nursing assistant professor Pete Varney.


A State-Wide Interprofessional Impact

The UAA simulation center supports educational programs throughout the university and Alaskan communities through partnerships with diverse clients including other universities, hospitals, and community-based programs. In a truly unique Alaska challenge, this vision places the IHSSC in the position to support 15 campus sites spread across 430,000 square miles. 

“These sites are each unique with their own set of circumstances and challenges and we are there to help them deliver high quality simulation,” said Gardner. The center provides simulation support to 17 academic programs including clinical, community, and behavioral health fields such as nursing, medicine, occupational therapy, physical therapy assisting, medical laboratory sciences, pharmacy, social work, and psychology. 

“What makes UAA’s simulation model unique is its emphasis on diversity and inclusion and integrating students from across the state to collaborate on structured, active learning scenarios,” said Varney.

  • UAA Simultaion Network

    The UAA Simulation Network extends across 16 campuses sites covering 430,000 square miles. 

  • Sitka Community campus building

    A medium-fidelity simulation lab is hosted at the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Sitka, supporting the UAA AAS in Nursing program.

  • Kenai lab

    This simulation lab, located on UAA's Kenai Peninsula College campus in Soldotna, supports multiple programs.

  • Kotzebue

    The Nortwest Artctic Borough School District's Alaska Techincal Center houses a medium-fidelity simulation lab.

  • Rachelle White

    Rachelle White, UAA nursing faculty, stands in front of the UAF Kuskokwim Campus sign in Bethel.


Adapting to Community Needs during a Global Pandemic

 In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of UAA campus, classes were migrated to online delivery, and the Simulation Center was faced by a new challenge: how to continue delivering realistic simulation experiences during a global pandemic, particularly to students in health programs where patient contact is absolutely necessary.

The IHSSC team developed a telehealth-like simulation model that provides clinical experiences and allows students and performers to be within the safety of their homes while meeting learning objectives. Conventional avatar-based simulation involves participants using a computer-generated avatar to navigate a fully digital environment. The IHSSC adapted this methodology so teams of up to six students at remote locations can participate in clinical simulations. In this model, one student of the group is the designated on-campus “Avatar.” The remaining members, or “Brain Trust,” participate in the activity remotely via web conferencing. The simulated encounter utilizes manikins or actors and are hosted in one or more of the UAA-based Simulation Center suites or in the simulation lab area of a community campus site across the state.

This new model not only allowed the continuation of student engagement in simulation throughout the pandemic, it also expanded the center’s geographic reach and learner contact hours. The IHSSC saw a 44% increase of learner contact hours from fall 2020 to spring 2021 and an 89% increase from spring 2021 to fall 2021.

“This methodology not only helped the students stay on track during a worldwide health crisis, but also introduced a novel way to increase simulation capability and conduct robust simulation,” said Gardner.

Using this new model, nursing student participation increased 2.5 times, expanding to include students from all of the School of Nursing’s 15 sites. Simulations were structured so that each team was made up of students from up to four different campus sites.

Varney has facilitated nursing simulations at numerous rural community campus network sites and witnessed the impact the new model has had on student connectedness.  “The inclusion of students from all campuses in the School of Nursing led to a newfound sense of community among the students in a time of separation and isolation,” he said.

  • "I was skeptical at the start of the SIM because I’m joining from Bethel and watching online, but I actually participated a lot more. The avatar nurse had more pressure on them, but they had a supportive team from the rest of us and we each had a role to play. The SIM still provided us a great learning experience and I actually look forward to the next one."

    -Nursing Student, AAS, Bethel

  • "There was a lot of information to review prior to coming to the sim online.  I felt overwhelmed, but the sim people helped get us organized and keep us on track.  Still a lot, but working in a team allowed us to each focus and be more helpful to the avatar. I think that even though I was remote, I had valuable learning in this format."

    -Nursing Student, BS, Anchorage

  • "Even though I was remote, I think the pre and debriefing sessions were immensely helpful in augmenting my learning in a clinical session."

    -Nursing Student, BS, Anchorage

  • "I feel the simulation clinical allows the student to receive a large amount of experience in a short period. Although we do not all receive the hands-on experience we do gain valuable learning by watching another student... Today's scenario covered several days so we were able to see the outcome and patient improvement. This is something we do not get in a one-day clinical. We do not usually interact with the providers either while at clinical, so simulations provide us that opportunity... The debriefing after each scene also adds another layer of learning. I really appreciate this type of learning."

    -Nursing Student, AAS, Soldotna 


Excellence in a New Era

Healthcare Simulation Week, sponsored by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, celebrates professionals who use healthcare simulation to improve the safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of healthcare delivery. The week serves as an opportunity to educate the public about the new and emerging methods and technologies that are improving healthcare education and patient care.

“Healthcare simulation continues to grow at an extraordinary rate,” said SSH President Bob Armstrong. “An increasing number of professionals in the healthcare industry are waking up to simulation’s ability to help individuals and organizations improve patient care, which is so great to witness. We want to celebrate both that increased role and all healthcare simulation professionals this week.”

“The healthcare industry has never before been able to learn and practice complicated and high risk situations without the inherent risk to the patient. Now, by utilizing simulation we can reduce the risk to the patient. By helping our current and future healthcare providers improve their own practice and skill we have a direct and immeasurable impact on the patients our students will one day serve. And if you ask me, that's a pretty awesome legacy,” said Gardner.

The UAA Interprofessional Health Sciences Simulation Center team invites the Anchorage community to join them in celebrating healthcare simulation this week:


sim lab tours

Drop-in Tours
Come by the Interprofessional Health Sciences Simulation Center for a tour of our facilities! You’ll have the opportunity to meet the manikins, help name two of the center’s new manikins, help deliver a (simulated) baby, and participate in a CPR competition. Drop-in tours are available Sept. 13, 14, and 16 from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m in the UAA Health Sciences Building, 3795 Piper Street, Rm 209, Anchorage, AK 99508.

In a 2010 study, 100% of graduate nurses said that simulation facilitated learning through experience, without risk to the patient, and gave them confidence in emergency situations.

Simulation Facts & Information
Follow the UAA College of Health on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where you can learn daily facts about the use of simulation in the healthcare industry and interesting information about UAA’s very own simulation center. 

Sim Week Logo

Join the Global Conversation
The Society for Simulation in Healthcare will be hosting numerous daily online presentations addressing advocacy for, best practices in, and standards of excellence in a new era of simulation. Learn more on the Simulation Week website and follow #HcSimWeek22 on social media.