A gift from the Flagstaff Medical Center is expected to enhance Northern Arizona University’s ability to prepare health professionals for patient care.

The $82,666 gift will enable NAU to hire a clinical simulation laboratory specialist tasked with enhancing nursing students’ educational experiences using medium- and high-fidelity equipment in simulation laboratory classrooms.

The simulation specialist, a nurse who will be a member of the NAU faculty, will visit health care facilities throughout the state to ensure the lab experience prepares students to meet the health care needs of rural and minority populations, a priority emphasized by the School of Nursing. By integrating hospital visits with faculty recommendations, the simulation specialist will connect the dots between real world experience and the classrooms.

The specialist will oversee all of NAU’s simulation labs in Flagstaff, Tucson, Yuma and the Navajo Nation, said Debera Thomas, professor and dean of the School of Nursing. NAU currently utilizes 17 simulators in a classroom environment where students assess patients, make decisions and learn from mistakes.

“This will help standardize patient care simulations and give students an opportunity to practice high-level nursing skills,” Thomas said. “But it is more than just practicing skills on a mannequin. While one student works with the patient, classmates assume the role of the spouse or parent of the patient, and that teaches students how to relate with the patient’s family.”

In addition to enriching the laboratory practices at NAU, the simulation specialist will dedicate up to eight hours a week to the continuing education of Northern Arizona Health Care staff. Through visits to the Flagstaff Medical Center and the Verde Valley Medical Center, the specialist will assist the education departments in developing and implementing patient care simulation scenarios for hospital personnel.

The Flagstaff Medical Center hired 24 of NAU’s 56 nursing graduates this year, and the hospital anticipates its latest investment in the university will continue to benefit the community.

“The Flagstaff Medical Center Foundation is proud to support the NAU College of Health and Human Services,” said Richard Smith, vice president of the FMC Foundation. “The graduates joining the health care staff at FMC have been exceptional in providing our community with the best health care possible.”