Trauma Nursing Core Course reaches 1,000 participants - VHA SimLEARN
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Trauma Nursing Core Course reaches 1,000 participants

By Scott Wiltz, MD, MPH, FAAFP
SimLEARN Associate Medical Director for Training and
Lygia L. Arcaro, PhD, RN
National Director, Nursing Programs
VHA SimLEARN National Simulation Center

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) sponsored by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) provides nurses the knowledge and practice to complete rapid and accurate assessments when caring for ill or injured patients. TNCC is internationally recognized as the Standard of Care for trauma patients, but the practices can also be applied to medical patients, particularly those with multiple medical system involvement.

The course was first taught at the VHA SimLEARN National Simulation Center in Orlando, Florida in September 2014. As of Sept. 14, staff have trained 1,002 students and granted 18,236 Continuing Education Credits through 66 provider classes and 20 instructor classes. Starting with Battle Creek, Michigan in December 2017, SimLEARN began offering virtual components whereby learners could be at a remote site and participate synchronously with a live, in-person class at the National Simulation Center. Since then, 65% of learners have been trained using the virtual component.

The SimLEARN TNCC team, led by ENA State Faculty Susie Martenson, has also trained personnel in multiple on-site classes, most notably in Puerto Rico in January 2020 during a series of dangerous earthquakes. They remained through the State of Emergency and trained 25 providers and three instructors even in those challenging circumstances.

In addition to earthquakes, even COVID-19 has not been able to stop the TNCC program at SimLEARN. TNCC became a cornerstone of training for VHA’s hiring and onboarding of over 200 Intermediate Care Technicians (ICTs) during the pandemic, and fully virtual courses started in July in which the classes were monitored from Orlando and conducted at remote sites. In July alone, 10 classes were held at eight sites training 38 learners, including five new instructors. The virtual training modality has made it possible not only to accommodate large numbers, such as classes of 60 or more at one time, but also to cost-effectively train as few as three learners who are unable to travel due to their remote location or travel restrictions. Susie Martenson and the SimLEARN team have ensured that nursing staff and new ICTs are well-trained and prepared for the myriad challenges faced by caring for critically ill patients. Their efforts have helped ensure that Veterans receive the world-class health care they deserve.

As a testament to her strengths and knowledge to conduct this type of training, Martenson began her interest in health care while she was a senior national ski patroller and was offered an opportunity to take the first EMT course in the country in the 1970s. She started working as an EMT in 1972; in 1978 she became a paramedic and remains a practicing paramedic to this day. In 1983, Martenson earned the national credential for the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) and remains current. In Susie’s nursing career she has had a dual role as a flight nurse and flight medic for almost 20 years. In addition to her clinical specialty of Emergency Nursing, Martenson also worked in nursing leadership and hospital administration. Today, she remains active in her role of SimLEARN Nurse Educator/Clinical Faculty in VA.

Martenson has been a TNCC instructor for over 25 years and credits those lessons as essential to her success having worked in various pre-hospital and hospital-based environments. She stated the systematic approach to patient assessment drew her to the TNCC curriculum. This aspect of TNCC is the key element to its continued success. Martenson was asked what keeps her continuing as a TNCC instructor and she said she “continues to learn from the students, and their eagerness to learn is something that makes it both a challenge and a reward” to her practice.