The reports on measles cases in the United States had yet to reach near-epidemic proportions when faculty in the Auburn University School of Nursing developed a simulation exercise about immunization education.
As of April 26, the U.S. had experienced 704 cases of measles this year, already the largest annual number of cases in 25 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week Alabama recorded its first presumptive case of measles this year, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Morgan Yordy, an assistant professor, and Ann Lambert, an assistant clinical professor, initiated the simulated experience for second-semester students. Two rooms in the Engaging Active Group Learning Environments in Simulation, or EAGLES, Center were converted to reflect a typical health department or hospital classroom.
Community members, trained to portray parents of pediatric patients, visited the school to gather additional information regarding immunizations for their children. Students were responsible for educating them, including responding to any questions or concerns.
Simulated experiences allow students to apply knowledge and skills attained in class in an appropriate and realistic setting, while faculty evaluate competencies.
“Incorporating innovations, such as using simulation with standardized patients to enhance traditional classroom objectives, demonstrates the dedication of the school to provide the best learning environment that can be achieved,” said Tiffani Chidume, assistant clinical professor and coordinator of the EAGLES Center.
Faculty said students provided accurate and reliable information about the importance of children receiving vaccines, emphasizing vaccine safety and efficacy, and the potential consequences of parents choosing not to have their children vaccinated.
“Students developed knowledge and communication skills to speak to community members regarding how to protect their children from many communicable diseases, and how to educate families, who may be hesitant, without bias or prejudice,” said Meghan Jones, assistant clinical professor and director of clinical simulation and skills. “Students reported they had the necessary knowledge and skills to discuss vaccine information with ‘concerned parents’ and, after the clinical session, they were more confident in their abilities to educate others.”
Measles can cause serious health complications, especially for children younger than 5. It is very contagious as it spreads through the air when one infected person sneezes or coughs.
“People who get measles put others who are not vaccinated at risk,” said Dr. Karen Landers, pediatrician and medical consultant for the Alabama Department of Public Health Immunization Division.
Anyone not protected against measles is at risk of acquiring the virus. Alabama currently has a high rate of vaccination; however, the state could experience a measles outbreak if children are not vaccinated.
State law requires children to be up to date on their vaccinations prior to attending school. Adolescents and college students must also be up to date on their Measles, Mumps and Rubella, or MMR, immunizations.
“The best thing you can do for your young children or college student is to vaccinate them against infectious diseases that can cause many serious complications,” Lambert said.
This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.