SDSU nursing students get access to “virtual clinic”


BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — A large population of KELOLAND chooses to live in the country, but can living far outside of cities put you more at risk in matters of life and death? According to the the Association of American Medical Colleges, it can.

Statistics from the AAMC show death rates are higher for people who live in rural areas versus cities, because of a nationwide lack of health care access. That’s one reason why telemedicine continues to grow and be vital for rural communities, and students who want to heal the sick and save lives. South Dakota State University is giving its nursing students training in this field, but is taking it a step further.

South Dakota State University’s College of Nursing has announced an agreement to use the CareSpan USA Inc.’s Virtual Clinic to train its students.

At face value, nursing students conducting a patient consultation simulation looks like nothing more than a FaceTime conversation. However, it’s much more than that. SDSU nursing students are getting an in-depth look into at CareSpan.

“I look at it as a clinic in the clouds,” Alyssa Zwiefel, assistant director of Health Care Simulations Center, said.

It’s kind of like telemedicine, but with a few more bells and whistles. CareSpan allows patients, who may be at home or at rural hospitals and clinics, to consult with nurses or specialists through video chat. Here’s the twist. It uses digital devices, like stethoscopes and finger pulse monitors, to upload patients’ vital signs.

“They can listen to a heart rate, they could listen to lung sounds,” Zwiefel said.

Mariah Suess, who is studying to become a nurse practitioner, says this is important.

“Sometimes what patients are telling you is not always what’s happening. When you have those vitals, some of those other assessments that give you the bigger picture of what’s really going on, sometimes that right there is enough to keep them from getting even sicker,” Suess said.

SDSU has utilized CareSpan for its nursing students. CareSpan used to charge the school for the service, but now its donating the virtual platform to the College of Nursing. Whether they’re studying on-campus in Brookings, or elsewhere, Suess says this will help nursing students in their careers.

“We need to stay on top of that technology, because it is so rapidly changing. I think SDSU does a great job with that,” Suess said.

Zwiefel says this is a game-changer, especially for people in rural areas who may not have access to enough medical resources.

“When a patient can stay in their house or a small clinic versus having to travel 100 miles, 150 miles to see that specialist, it really just benefits the patient,” Zwiefel said.

According to SDSU, this agreement between SDSU and CareSpan is the first of its kind. Right now, SDSU is the only university anywhere using it for its students.

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