Medical Simulation Lab for Training Allied Health Students

River Valley Community College opens innovative medical simulation lab for training allied health students

Technology replicates realistic patient care scenarios for allied health majors

Claremont, NH – One of the most effective approaches to learning is to experience something firsthand, but for those pursuing medical careers, direct access to patients isn’t always a realistic training approach. Enter River Valley Community College’s (RVCC) new Clinical Simulation Lab, where instructors can create realistic patient care scenarios and observe how students respond to a wide range of symptoms and external factors.

“The new Clinical Simulation Lab is an important tool to help students grow professionally, gain key skills, and learn to work as an interdisciplinary team in a healthcare setting,” said Ken Czechowicz, MS, RRT, Director of Clinical Education for Respiratory Therapy at RVCC, and a registered respiratory therapist for the last 36 years. “We work collaboratively along with our other RVCC allied health programs to deliver realistic patient centric care scenarios, which our students may encounter within a variety of challenging healthcare settings.”  

In the lab, instructors and facilitators can run countless medical scenarios, ranging from a man experiencing a heart attack to undiagnosed ailment in an infant, and observe how students respond to the patient’s changing vital signs. With cameras running, they must work together to make decisions, evaluate demographic and symptomatic data, and ultimately, recommend the most appropriate plan of action. Every simulation is followed by a debrief afterward where instructors and students discuss the experience.

“At RVCC, the Nursing and Respiratory Therapy Department has focused on evidence-based collaborative learning and we incorporate best practice models of healthcare delivery in both our classroom as well as in our simulation labs,” said Czechowicz, who is the project lead for the Clinical Simulation Lab along with Denise Ruby, Department Chair of Nursing at RVCC. “It’s designed to prepare future healthcare providers, reduce or prevent medical errors, and give hands-on training before they’re faced with these situations in real life.”

“Experiential learning is the most engaging way for students to learn and research has proven that it is the modality most effective in retaining knowledge,” added Dr. Deborah (Sunny) Schmitt, Interim Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at RVCC.

State funding of $250,000 is enabling RVCC to expand the simulation lab to include birthing and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) scenarios. The simulated “patient” can either be a live man, woman, or child actor, or a mannequin, depending on the situation. The lab is integrated into the curriculum across all of RVCC’s allied health programs to introduce a clinical environment very early on in their training.

RVCC has clinical affiliations with healthcare centers across the state, including Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Hospital in Manchester, Concord Hospital, Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Keene, Exeter Hospital, Littleton Regional Healthcare, Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, and Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont. Across state lines, RVCC is also clinically affiliated with White River Junction VA Medical Center, Rutland Regional Hospital, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, and Central Vermont Medical Center in Vermont.

“At RVCC we replicate scenarios where different healthcare practitioners work together in clinical practice to teach our students skills in effective communication, teamwork, and collaboration, said Ruby, one of the lab’s project leads. “These are evidence-based competencies required in today’s complex healthcare environment to insure positive patient outcomes.”

Programs with access to the new lab include respiratory therapy, physical therapy assistant program, occupational therapy, and nursing. The lab is the only one of its kind in New Hampshire expressly for student use, emerging as RVCC aligns its systems and facilities to deliver on the promise of creating an excellent teaching and learning environment and providing exemplary training for the state’s future healthcare workforce.

To learn more about RVCC, the simulation lab, or its allied health programs, contact Ken Czechowicz at, 603-543-4516 or visit

About River Valley Community College

River Valley Community College is one of seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire, offering thirty-nine associate degree and certificate programs in Claremont, Keene, Lebanon, and Online. Financial Aid and Scholarships are available. The seven community colleges in the system are committed to working with businesses throughout the state to train and retain employees to develop a robust workforce across all sectors and embraces the "65 by 25 Initiative," which calls for 65% of NH citizens to have some form of post-secondary education by 2025 to meet future workforce demands.



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