Milligan excited for new simulation lab

Milligan’s physician assistant graduates have worked to improve healthcare in our region since the program’s inception in 2018.  Photo Courtesy of Milligan University

By A.J. Kaufman, Managing Editor

Milligan University is preparing to open an important lab for its health sciences students, thanks to a donation from Ballad Health.

This new high-fidelity simulation lab will allow students to get hands-on experience performing medical interventions on high-tech mannequins. Additionally, the new lab will allow occupational therapy, physician assistant and nursing students to work together in ways that simulate the medical settings in which they are being trained to work.

The Tri-Cities, along with much of the nation and world, are experiencing a shortage of healthcare providers, especially in nursing and other clinician roles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections expects more than 200,000 openings for registered nurses annually for the next decade, when retirements and workforce exits are factored into the number of nurses needed. Further, a significant number leaving the workforce are under age 35, and most are employed in hospitals.

Melinda Collins, Ballad Health chair of nursing at Milligan, believes the partnership between the health care organization and the private university has a primary goal to prepare nurses who can “empathize and communicate with patients and families to best understand and meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs as part of the healthcare team.”

“To achieve this goal, students must spend a great deal of time in skills labs and clinical settings, developing clinical judgment and reasoning skills,” Collins, who’s been on Milligan’s faculty for three decades, told the Business Journal.

She says Ballad’s funding of the lab for Milligan’s health science programs “is a testament to our ongoing partnership of preparing registered nurses to meet the healthcare needs of our community.”

Collins, who is also associate dean of the School of Sciences and Allied Health, says graduates can contribute to providing quality healthcare to residents across the Appalachian Highlands.

“Our graduates are continually challenged in the nursing program to grow not only in their practice skills, but as people who can care for and support others with empathy,” she explained, noting that Milligan Nursing program graduates frequently provide health care to patients and families at places like James H. Quillen Veterans Administration Medical Center, the Tennessee Department of Health, Ballad Health, as well as home health agencies and schools.

Milligan’s occupational therapy program has been serving local and national communities across the nation for 25 years. Assistant Professor Ashleigh Lingerfelt is its director and notes that students provide free occupational therapy services to under-served populations in the Tri-Cities.

“This establishes a foundation for a lifetime of not only service, but servant leadership in healthcare,” Lingerfelt explained to the Business Journal.

She says that program graduates work across the lifespan, from newborns to geriatric populations.

“The implementation of a high-fidelity simulation lab will allow our students to sharpen their critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills in a safe environment,” Lingerfelt, who’s also a 2009 graduate of Milligan’s Occupational Therapy Program, added. “Students will also get the opportunity to work interprofessionally and better understand their unique role on the healthcare team. This learning experience will equip students with an enhanced skill set, laying a solid foundation for their entry into the professional healthcare team.”

Finally, Associate Professor Andrew Hull is counting on the lab — set to open next year — to provide additional training and instruction with numerous types of patient encounters.

“Not only can students gain more clinical experience in a safe environment, they can also work on important skills such as teamwork, interpersonal communication and professionalism, which all contribute to the development of successful PAs,” the director and chair of Physician Assistant Studies for the past eight years said to the Business Journal. “While our students are already well-prepared to fill the healthcare pipeline, as evidenced by high pass rates on board exams and the amazing work our graduates are doing in hospitals and healthcare offices in our region and across the country, this simulation lab is a resource that will increase the medical knowledge and clinical skills of our students which will enhance their ability to provide high quality healthcare to their future patients.

With the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) workforce expected to grow more rapidly than average for all occupations, approximately 30,000 new APRNs will be needed each year; universities like Milligan will be needed more than ever to serve our region and the United States as a whole.

About Author

Comments are closed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This