Innovators at CRH
Director of Nursing Education and Clinical Simulation
Caroline Sims learned about caring for patients at a very early age.
"My dad was very sick when I was a kid," Caroline said. "He died of cancer when I was 15 so my mom and I spent a lot of time taking care of him."
From those experiences Caroline's passion for caring for others began to take shape.
"For a lot of years I was just sure I was going to be a pediatrician and I would have a big house so that I could take in and care for neglected and abused children," she said.
Her senior year in high school, however, Caroline was introduced to biomedical engineering by her science teacher.
"That sounded really cool, so I enrolled in the engineering school at Purdue," she said. "That only lasted a year. I hated everything about engineering. One day I just decided to drop my classes and go where I fit - nursing school."
As a nursing student at the University of Indianapolis, Caroline applied for her first job at Columbus Regional Hospital as a student nurse.
"I thought it was so awesome that I was going to make $5 an hour," she said, laughing. "I worked everywhere they would let me. I loved it."
Twenty-four years later Caroline is still working at Columbus Regional Hospital as the Director of Nursing Education and Clinical Simulation. She was recently named the Douglas J. Leonard Innovation Fellow.
The Leonard Fellowship was established in 2007 in honor of former CEO Doug Leonard to honor Leonard's passion for innovation in the care of patients, to recognize his legacy as the inspiration for the Innovation Center, and to encourage and recognize accomplished innovators.
"Caroline was chosen in recognition of her leadership in the development of the Simulation Lab which will be located in the Innovation Center," said Julie Abedian, Columbus Regional Hospital Foundation President. "Caroline has led CRH's involvement with the regional EcO15 initiative that will result in simulation becoming a key tool for education here at CRH and throughout a 10-county region. The use of the Simulation Lab for innovation will reinforce us as a model community hospital."
"It's a great honor to be recognized with this award," Caroline said. "Doug was a great leader. He didn't believe in the status quo. He was always looking for innovative ways to improve our hospital."
Caroline began her journey with the Simulation Lab after many years as a nurse manager.
"My favorite part of being a nurse manager was watching the student nurses grow from being hesitant and unsure to being confident in their skills," Caroline said. "Becoming the liaison with the schools of nursing and involved with the Sim lab has been a great fit for me."
When the Simulation Lab opens later this year it will feature seven mannequins, six beds (set up like a nursing unit), an operating room, and a room that can function as an emergency department, an intensive care room, a nursery, an obstetrics room, and a medical surgical room.
"The potential for learning is beautiful," Caroline said. "The boundaries are only in your imagination." A computer program brings the mannequins to life, giving instructors the ability to set up virtually any medical scenario. The mannequins breathe, talk, moan, and have heart beats. One even gives birth.
Before Sim mannequins, new nurses learned through videos and presentations and by watching their peers.
"With a Sim, you can actually do the work," Caroline said. "You can read a book but when you actually see a scenario and respond to it you grow much faster. We can put our nurses in some really difficult situations before they ever have to encounter them with a human. They can move from novice to expert much faster."
Caroline said she expects to see improvements in patient safety, process standardization and patient satisfaction as a result of the Simulation Lab.
"The lab is not just for nurses," she said. "We want to get everyone at the hospital involved. The lab will help non clinical people feel more comfortable when they interact with patients. The lab is also a great place for everyone to work on our standards of service."
The blueprints for the Simulation Lab greet visitors to Caroline's office.
"It's like looking at an ultrasound of your baby before it's born," Caroline said. "I feel very privileged to be a part of this work. It's another opportunity for us to stretch what we are doing. It's something that sets us apart."
Caroline said she would never want to work anywhere else.
"It's so cool to work in an organization that is thinking this far ahead but at the same time is small enough that people actually know each other," she said. "We have something pretty special here."