By Jeff Todd

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Inside a nondescript office building in Englewood, one of Colorado’s largest healthcare systems has revolutionized how it educates nurses and clinical staff. HealthONE realized early in the pandemic that nursing students might experience an interruption to their education and the beginning of their career.

“We knew in times of trouble, uncertainty, that we would have to pull ourselves together to see everyone through this. In clinical education that meant getting out of this center, getting into the field, at the bedside with our nurses giving them the information so that they could be safe and learn new ways to take care of patients for a disease we’ve never seen before,” said Carolyn Vitale, HealthONE Vice President of Clinical Education.

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HealthONE brought 125 more nursing students into hospitals in 2020 compared to 2019.

“There is a nursing shortage. It’s not a problem that is going to solve itself,” Vitale said. “We couldn’t hit pause on something so very important and so we got to work with how and where can we provide those safe experiences. This is not a normal last year of nursing school for them. Their transition to practice isn’t going to look like anything anyone envisioned, or they were promised.”

On a recent afternoon, CBS4 was given access to a one-of-a-kind training session. Several nurses from throughout the health care system came together, but they hadn’t worked together before.

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“These scenarios walk us through difficult situations that we don’t see often, so when we do see them, we’re more comfortable,” said Madison Fliedner, a nurse at the Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute. “It makes you comfortable reaching out for help and I think sometimes that’s the most difficult thing. This shows you that you do have resources.”

Educators use a remote control robotic mannequin to test teams of nurses in real-life scenarios. Fliedner has only been on the job for five months and said the training has already made an impact during her shifts.

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“About a week ago, I had a patient poster for the same thing, and I knew right away because of that simulation. I said, ‘He’s going septic.’ I called the doctor and I knew what to do,” Fiedner explained.

Vitale said the changes made during the pandemic have worked.

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“Practicing in a pandemic looks and feels a little bit differently and you may encounter some situations you don’t get to experience as a student,” she added.

Jeff Todd