Disruptors Welcome in the Virtual Reality and Simulation Lab

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Simulation Lab Coordinator Bethany Cieslowski harnesses technology to enhance interprofessional clinical education.

Simulation and VR Coordinator Bethany Cieslowski
“The learning really comes from the pre- and post-simulation briefings where students receive feedback and learn from the actions that result from critical thinking processes,”  says Cieslowski, simulation and VR coordinator.

Bethany Cieslowski joined the College in July 2021 as the Simulation and VR Coordinator, with the mission to re-envision the College’s approach to virtual, augmented, and simulated learning for the interprofessional student body.  “Preparing our students for the future of healthcare requires completely new ways of defining a “classroom,” says Cieslowski. “Virtual and augmented reality allow us to bring the learning experience to our students across all our degree programs – delivering hands-on learning in an immersive environment conducive to applying and acquiring skills.”     

Cieslowski received a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Duke University, but she considers simulation and informatics as her passion. She seeks to integrate both into every aspect of nursing to improve the quality of care, provide students with high-quality clinical experiences, and deliver career-ready graduates to the workforce. Her most recent experience prior to joining Mason includes integrating training for virtual health visits and using telehealth technology in the BSN and MSN curriculum – a much-needed skillset for today’s clinicians, given the mainstream adoption of telehealth during the pandemic.

When observing Cieslowski in action, her experience in leading VR and simulation training and debrief is evident. She easily navigates various scenarios—such as teaching students how to triage mass casualties in a ‘low-frequency high consequence’ event, such as a simulated mass shooting, and helping a high school student avert hypoglycemia by assessing the situation and providing adequate carbohydrates to elevate his blood sugar – all in a virtual space.

The simulation technology fits into a backpack – making it logistically and financially possible to prepare students for scenarios that were previously difficult to access. “For example, obstetric and pediatric clinical opportunities are often limited for students– but with simulations, every student can participate in delivering a baby. The technology is not only cool but can help students complete their clinical requirements more efficiently,” says Cheryl Oetjen, interim department chair for the School of Nursing at Mason.

“The technology is not the innovation—the technology enables the innovation,” says Cieslowski. “The learning really comes from the pre- and post-simulation briefings where students receive feedback and learn from the actions that result from critical thinking processes.” She is eager to work with the faculty, staff, and students to bring the full potential of VR and simulation to the College.  She looks forward to publicly launching the Virtual Reality and Simulation Lab in the upcoming months and is currently training students, faculty, and staff on the new simulation platform SimX which will be deployed to students throughout the Fall and Spring semesters.