Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This semester Tri-County Nursing students will be able to practice their clinical skills outside of the classroom setting with a portable nursing kit that contains low fidelity simulators conceptualized and designed by fellow Practical Nursing major Tanya Mikkelson, seated right. Pictured with her from left are Nursing Department Head Janet Fuller, Jennifer Baynard, and Nursing Lab Coordinator Lynn Lollis.

L.P.N. Student/Entrepreneur Receives Provisional Patent for Simulators That Will Be Used in Tri-County Classes


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            1/3/2012

       (By Lisa Garrett)

            PENDLETON --- This semester Tri-County Technical College nursing students will be able to practice their clinical skills outside of the classroom setting with a portable nursing kit that contains low fidelity simulators conceptualized and designed by fellow Practical Nursing major Tanya Mikkelson.

            Mikkelson, of Easley, a Practical Nursing student at the College's Easley Campus, recently received a provisional patent for the kit that contains low fidelity simulators for a tracheotomy, male and female catheters, nasogastric intubation, wound care, an injection pad and an IV pad.

            Tri-County's nursing department bought 92 of the kits, which will be used by students when classes resume January 9.

            In just four short months, Mikkelson has gone from college student to entrepreneur, as her work progressed from an idea to a business - called SimuMed - and she has been pitching her products to nursing schools all over the state.

            Her first sale was to Tri-County with several four-year universities agreeing to purchase kits for the fall 2012 semester.

             "I'm learning as I go," said Mikkelson, of her first business venture.

            She says she was inspired to create these simulators out of necessity. "We students were asking how to practice our skills at home but there was no easy way to do so," she says.  "The simulators were all in the college labs, and there weren't mobile units for students to purchase to practice on at home.  There are simulators available to schools but not to individuals," she said. 

            Mikkelson says she didn't know just how great the need was until she started doing research on the Internet.  "So I decided to design a part (or low fidelity simulator) to practice on," said Mikkleson, a self-taught artist who sells her stained glass, pottery, drawings and paintings.  "The more you practice these skills, the more confident you are in your lab check offs," said Mikkelson, also a former paramedic and patient care technician, and a married mother of three who returned to the classroom last year.

            "Every time we would have a check off, I would make a prototype for that procedure. There were lots of late nights.  It was definitely trial and error," she said.  But after 12 weeks of design and lots of research, she perfected her design and found a manufacturer.

            "I found Russell Todd, owner, of Widget Works in Pennsylvania, who has been working with me and manufactured the first round of orders for Tri-County," she explained.

            Along the way, she contacted the Clemson University Small Business Development Center to get advice and assistance with a creating a business plan, acquiring a business license and obtaining a patent.

            When pitching her products, she began with Tri-County.  "I showed them to my instructor, Practical Nursing Program Coordinator Julie Vernon, who advised me to make a presentation to Nursing Department Head Janet Fuller."

            "I was blown away when Tanya presented her prototypes to me," said Vernon.  "These are the most realistic simulators I have ever seen.  They are anatomically correct and are as close to real skin as you can get," she said.

            "Tanya is so compassionate.  At the root of this endeavor is her desire to help others.  She used her artistic abilities to help herself and her classmates," added Vernon.

            "This was so exciting for me.  I found out that the instructors want this as badly as the students do.  As far as I can tell in my research, this product is a first of its kind.  Every college I have approached has said, 'we need this,'" said Mikkelson.

            In the future, Mikkelson wants to produce an instructional DVD to accompany the product kits and will continue to add prototypes as she completes her L.P.N. degree. 


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