Stephanie Williams of Shawano was working in what she calls “more or less, a dead-end job” when she decided it was time for a change – for herself and her kids.
Reimaging the future of nursing education
Through a $300,000 grant from Achieving the Dream and the Brave of Heart Fund to address shortage of nurses and systemic inequalities in nursing pathways, NWTC launches its first Health Sciences Extended Reality (XR) Lab. This state-of-the-art facility will revolutionize the way nursing education is delivered and experienced, offering students a dynamic and immersive learning environment.
NWTC was selected among ten community colleges nationwide to further develop sustainable solutions that accelerate and increase enrollment and completion of nursing credentials.
Susan Mayer, chief learning officer at ATD, says, “We are proud to partner with these ten colleges with the support of the Brave of Heart Fund to increase the number of nurses in the workforce, diversify the nursing pathways, and accelerate the completion of valuable credentials.”
Bringing XR into the classroom
“Extended reality provides an innovative platform to enhance students’ clinical skills, critical thinking, and patient care techniques. It’s truly the wave of the future in healthcare education, and it’s happening here,” said NWTC Dean of Health Sciences, Scott Anderson. “This facility represents our ongoing commitment to training highly skilled and adaptable professionals who can meet the growing demands of the healthcare industry.”
The Lab offers eight extended reality stations that provide a variety of simulated experiences.
Students can engage in lifelike clinical scenarios using state of the art technologies such as Meta Quest 2 (headset), HoloLens2 (headset), Acadicus (software), Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides (software), allowing them to practice in a realistic and risk-free environment.
“This Lab is not replacing the in-person clinical experience, as experience with actual patients is critical to the learning process. But the virtual world offers something the real world does not – an opportunity for mistakes in an environment that is safe for the students as well as patients,” said NWTC Coordinator of Nursing Simulation, Mitch Luker. “Students can train on a scenario as many times as needed to fine tune their responses and learn best practices.”
Some of the benefits of the Extended Reality Lab include:
- Broadens learning opportunities. From birthing to mental health simulations, instructors can create scenarios that not every student may normally experience in a clinical setting – expanding their skillset, confidence, and empathy as a healthcare professional.
- Provides personalized training. Simulations can be tailored to each students’ individual needs so they can focus on difficult concepts and areas in need of improvement.
- Greater access. The flexibility of a virtual setting allows for students to learn new skills when it fits their schedule. Instructors also have ability to train students remotely, also reaching a wider student audience to areas for those who may not have access to traditional training.
Setting a new standard for healthcare education
NWTC is the largest producer of nursing graduates than any institution within the Wisconsin Technical College System over the last four years. And while extended reality helps troubleshoot some of the obstacles that healthcare training faces today, this XR Lab will play an instrumental role in as the College continues to fill the pipeline with skilled healthcare professionals needed in the region.
“As the healthcare industry continues to combat staffing shortages, it is critical that our graduates are ready to hit the ground running with the skills, confidence, and experience needed for their fast-paced careers,” said Anderson. “There is no doubt that extended reality will set a new standard for nursing education within our community and beyond.”
NWTC’s Health Science XR Lab became available to nursing students since fall 2023. Since then, the College has also offered XR training in Respiratory Therapy, Dental, Radiography, Echocardiography, and more.
Looking ahead, the College is actively planning for all campuses and learning centers to have this technology, providing access to high quality, specialized health sciences education to students throughout the region.
To learn more about NWTC’ Health Sciences program or other rewarding careers, visit nwtc.edu.
About Achieving the Dream
Achieving the Dream (ATD) is a partner and champion of more than 300 community colleges across the country. Drawing on expert coaches, groundbreaking programs, and national peer network, the organization provides institutions with integrated, tailored support for every aspect of their work — from foundational capacities such as leadership, data, and equity to intentional strategies for supporting students holistically, building K–12 partnerships, and more. ATD calls this Whole College Transformation. Its vision is for every college to be a catalyst for equitable, antiracist, and economically vibrant communities. ATD knows that with the right partner and the right approach, colleges can drive access, completion rates, and employment outcomes — so that all students can access life-changing learning that propels them into community-changing careers. Follow ATD on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
About the Brave of Heart Fund
This initiative is made possible by a grant from the Brave of Heart Fund and designed to address the shortage of nurses, particularly BIPOC nurses, and systemic inequities in nursing pathways. The Brave of Heart Fund was established by the Foundations of New York Life and Cigna, and administered by E4E Relief, to provide charitable grants and emotional support services to families of the frontline healthcare workers, volunteers, and support staff whose lives were lost in the fight against COVID-19. It also partnered with nonprofit organizations aligned with the spirit and intent of the fund’s core purposes. To learn more, please review the Brave of Heart Fund impact summary.
Jared Maurina started taking classes at NWTC when he was a junior in high school as part of the Youth Apprenticeship program.
NWTC’s Soar Higher Partner award is an annual recognition honoring an industry partner championing technical education, giving back to the community, and advancing the College’s mission. Bellin Health