Carolinas College, Carolinas Simulation Center to Launch Healthcare Simulation Degree Program

On September 7, 2021, Carolinas College of Health Sciences and Carolinas Simulation Center, both part of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health, will launch a first-of-its-kind bachelor’s degree program in health care simulation to help train the next generation of simulation experts. Seeing an increase in demand for realistic, hands-on educational experiences, facilitators have designed the program to incorporate education, technology, operations, research, assessment and leadership skills. Program participants will learn to manage everything about health care simulation, from creating curriculum to running a state-of-the-art center using human patient simulators, procedural trainers, standardized participants and virtual reality

This program includes 120 total credits for the bachelor’s degree and 20 credits for the certificate. A flexible, hybrid learning model allows learners to take a combination of general education courses and simulation courses online, while participating in hands-on lab experience in the simulation center located in Charlotte. Many classes will be taken with learners from other disciplines.

“One of the challenges, over the years, has been to find people with simulation experience to join our team and to be able to serve our huge customer base,” explained Dawn Swiderski, assistant vice president of simulation services for Carolinas Simulation Center and Atrium Health. “That's where the brainchild for the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences simulation program came from, in partnership with Carolinas College of Health Sciences. Meeting a need for us and the surrounding community, this new program was developed to train future simulationists to be able to support education and experiential learning in the region.”

This program is ideal for learners who want to impact patient care and safety but may not wish to be on the front lines of health care, according to Crystal Bencken, a simulation education manager at Carolinas Simulation Center. Alternatively, the program is an excellent option for clinical simulation professionals who may not have previously received any formal industry training.

“Somebody who already has a bachelor's degree can come in and just do the 20 hours of the health care simulation curriculum and receive a certificate,” Bencken said. “Additionally, somebody who has an associate degree or has some of the prerequisites could come in and complete the interprofessional education concept part of the program and the simulation part to obtain a bachelor's degree.”

Currently, this program consists of a hybrid learning approach with asynchronous course materials and synchronous online sessions with course faculty. There is also a practicum component within the Carolinas Simulation Center. This enables learners to work side-by-side with teammates who are a part of a duly accredited program to complete a hands-on part of the curriculum. As health care simulation is experiential, Carolinas Simulation Center and Carolinas College believe that learners do need some level of hands-on experience.

“Because we've had such interest across the community at-large, nationally, and internationally, we’re looking to figure out how to offer the experiential piece online, as well, in the future,” Swiderski said. “For the first few cohorts, we are trying to focus on this surrounding area.”

Swiderski said this particular health care simulation bachelor’s degree program is the first of its kind because of the coverage of all the different roles that a simulationist might experience in a simulation center. As an example of why this is important, Swiderski noted that there is often a two-year turnover rate for SimOps, because there is not always a clear pathway for growth in that role.

“Now, instead of a primary focus and a degree on SIM operations, you also add the education, research, assessment and administrative components, which is super important to be a part of a simulation center and for professional growth opportunities,” Swiderski said. “The uniqueness of this program is that it's geared toward anyone who works in a SIM center and not a specific position.”

Further, this program is part of a bigger effort for the college, which plans to eventually offer other concentrations within its Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS). Within the BSHS curriculum there are also courses such as medical terminology, ethics, leadership, and informatics, that will be taught in an inter-professional manner. Thus, the simulation curriculum will not solely focus on ethics for nurses or ethics for medical imaging, but rather the program will teach ethics for health care in general.

Those who wish to enroll in the first cohort of this program must apply by August 15, 2021. Application requirements include:

Certificate Option (must have prior bachelor's degree):

  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended, demonstrating an earned (by program start date) baccalaureate degree
  • Cumulative GPA of 2.50 or above
    (Certificate pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.)

Bachelor's Degree Option:

  • Official high school transcript or equivalent verifying graduation and college preparatory coursework
  • Official SAT or ACT test score report with a minimum 900 (SAT) or 19 (ACT). Copies of official score reports and scores reported on an official transcript will be accepted. For the SAT, only the critical reading and math scores are considered in calculating the minimum requirement
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (if applicable) with a combined cumulative GPA of at least 2.5
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended demonstrating an earned (by program start date) associate degree (if applicable)

More About Carolinas College of Health Sciences

Carolinas College of Health Sciences is a public non-profit college owned by Atrium Health. The mission of Carolinas College is to transform lives by educating, engaging and empowering professionals for an evolving healthcare environment. Graduates consistently exceed state and national certification testing benchmarks, demonstrating their exceptional preparedness in fields such as clinical laboratory science, radiologic science and nursing.

As part of Atrium Health, students at Carolinas College access clinical education in a diverse network of care locations including academic medical centers, hospitals and physician practices. The college also serves as a talent development engine, preparing graduates to work at Atrium Health and in other evolving healthcare environments. The college currently offers associate degrees, certificate programs and several baccalaureate degrees.

More About Atrium Health

Atrium Health is a nationally recognized leader in shaping health outcomes through innovative research, education and compassionate patient care. Atrium Health is an integrated, nonprofit health system with nearly 70,000 teammates serving patients at 37 hospitals and more than 1,350 care locations. It provides care under the Wake Forest Baptist Health name in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, region and Atrium Health Navicent in Georgia. Atrium Health is renowned for its top-ranked pediatric, cancer and heart care, as well as organ transplants, burn treatments and specialized musculoskeletal programs.

A recognized leader in experiential medical education and groundbreaking research, Wake Forest School of Medicine is the academic core of the enterprise, including Wake Forest Innovations, which is advancing new medical technologies and biomedical discoveries. Atrium Health is also a leading-edge innovator in virtual care and mobile medicine, providing care close to home and in the home.

Ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals for cancer treatment and in eight pediatric specialties, Atrium Health has also received the American Hospital Association’s Quest for Quality Prize and was the recipient of the 2020 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Health Equity Award for its efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in care. With a commitment to every community it serves, Atrium Health seeks to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all, providing more than $2 billion per year in free and uncompensated care and other community benefits.

More About the Carolinas Simulation Center

Opened in 2007, the Carolinas Simulation Center was established as a multidisciplinary simulation center to meet the training needs of Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center and related entities, as well as healthcare providers and community groups from across the surrounding region. The center provides healthcare professionals the opportunity to use a variety of simulation modalities to practice procedures and clinical patient care situations in a safe learning environment.

One of the program's priorities is conducting research into continuous improvement of simulation educational methods. This program is accredited at a distinguished level by both the American College of Surgeons as a Comprehensive Education Institute and the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH) accredited in the areas of Assessment, Research, Teaching/Education, and Systems Integration.

Learn More About This Bachelor’s Degree Program