SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Students studying nursing at South Dakota State University will be using some of the latest simulation technology after SDSU was named one of four higher-education programs to land a specific grant. 

Sentinel U, which provides technology for virtual clinical encounters, named SDSU alongside nursing programs at the University of Central Florida, Bradley University and Australia-based Queensland University of Technology. 

“We’re very excited about it. When I saw the list of other universities that were awarded it really, it’s an honor to be in that company,” Brandi Pravecek, clinical assistant professor at SDSU, told KELOLAND News. “We want nurse practitioners to come to South Dakota for their education, for their training. We want SDSU to really be at the forefront of that.” 

Pravecek will oversee the implementation of the technology and spring semester students will use the simulation technology alongside traditional clinical training for nurse practitioner students. 

SDSU graduate nursing students will use Sentinel U’s simulation technology “to determine the impact of screen-based simulation on family practice nurse practitioner students in a rural or frontier setting,” a news release from Sentinel U said

“It doesn’t take away from those traditional clinical hours, but it will complement that and give us an opportunity to evaluate then the student’s perception of preparedness based on the traditional clinical setting, based on their virtual simulation experience and then also any face-to-face simulation that we do with the students,” Pravecek said. 

Pravecek said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of alternatives for nursing students to get hands-on experience through clinical options. She said South Dakota’s rural makeup makes getting students to clinical sites difficult.  

“We see it as an opportunity, first of all, to establish virtual simulation as an effective teaching strategy within our program,” Pravecek said. 

The simulation has 11 different modules with 55 different patients for a variety of health-care encounters nurses would see in a clinical setting. 

“The more experience we can give our students in a simulated safe environment before they’re in a real-world practice environment, we feel that that better prepares our students for feeling confident and ready for clinical practice,” Pravecek said. 

Telehealth, technology can recruit future nurses 

SDSU’s nursing program is the most-enrolled program for students. In 2021, 283 SDSU nursing students passed an exam required before working in the field, according to data from the Board of Regents

The projected need for nurses in South Dakota is expected to be nearly 1000 by 2027 and the Board of Regents said SDSU must recruit a total of 1,200 enrollments to meet the demands for licensed nurses.  

Pravecek highlighted how using some of the latest technology to train nurses will help SDSU recruit students to Brookings. 

“Having received this grant, I think it really levels us up as far as our competitiveness for attracting students as well,” Pravecek said. “Which ultimately then feeds the shortage issue, because that’s what the crux of the shortage is to have trained nurse practitioners.” 

Pravecek said SDSU has a robust simulation program for its undergraduate nursing students. She said nurse practitioners in South Dakota work to fill the gap in rural and underserved areas across South Dakota. 

“It certainly doesn’t create more people, but the more comfortable they can be with technology, I think that helps fill those shortages and those gaps,” Pravecek said. “We’re able to use that technology to really connect with many of those rural and frontier communities.”