Students treat students in bustling Orthopedic Clinic

August 20, 2021 / by / 0 Comment
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Senior athletic training student Maddy Warengo (right) gets clinical experience at the Lopes Orthopedic Clinic from Michael McKenney (left), Assistant Professor and Clinical Education Coordinator for Athletic Training. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the cover story on Lopes Live Labs in the August 2021 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU Magazine

Taking a tumble off a skateboard could mean a trip to the popular Lopes Orthopedic Clinic, a Lopes Live Lab that is quickly becoming one of the Grand Canyon University campus’ go-to places when it comes to health-and-wellness rehabilitation.

Students, such as senior athletic training student Natalie Johnson (right), are primarily the ones who do the hands-on work at the clinic. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

It’s at the two-year-old lab, on the first floor of Chaparral Hall, where students, faculty and staff with musculoskeletal injuries — maybe from tripping on the stairs on the way to GCBC or turning an ankle in intramurals — just might receive treatment from the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions’ athletic training students.

While a certified athletic trainer, Trent Morris, oversees every student caring for every patient in the clinic, “it’s our students primarily who do the hands-on work,” said Michael McKenney, Assistant Professor and Clinical Education Coordinator of the Athletic Training Program.

The clinical site, operated under the auspices of the Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic, has averaged 250 students and 15 faculty patients each year since opening in the fall of 2019 and showed a 25% growth in appointments from the first year of operation to the next.

Twenty-seven athletic training students have treated those patients and their strains and pain, turning in 1,768 clinical hours over those two years.

The unique Lopes Live Lab offers students an “opportunity, really, like none other,” McKenney said. Students spend up to an hour with each patient, evaluating them, then developing and administering a plan of care.

The clinic has everything students need to treat patients and earn clinical hours.

Unlike reading case studies in a book, students get to see if a treatment works or if a patient feels better.

“They apply this model of experiential learning that’s really profound,” McKenney said. “It’s something you don’t get in a normal classroom because you don’t get to see the effects of your interventions.”

The Lopes Orthopedic Clinic isn’t the only hands-on learning that is pushing students to excel in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions.

Like athletic training students, nursing students really do the business of learning while on their clinical rotations at health care facilities and in the campus’ simulation labs, spaces that look like real-life hospital floors.

This fall, the college will open yet another Lopes Live Lab — a third simulation lab on the first floor of the Natural Sciences Building — after receiving approval from the Arizona State Board of Nursing to replace up to 40% of its clinical hours for prelicensure students with simulations (according to the state board, up to 50% simulation can be used for clinical time and still be effective).

The change was something the college batted around before the pandemic – it’s becoming more challenging to place nursing students at hospitals, which have limited clinical spaces to offer. But the pandemic made the increase in simulation hours even more urgent.

When it’s completed in time for the fall, the simulation lab will include four hospital rooms, two debriefing areas, a control room and a nurses’ station, with two more simulation lab teams added for the new space.

“We can throw a ton of theory at students,” said Prelicensure Assistant Dean Heather Ziemianski, “but until they actually get into a space where they can do hands on, a lot of things just don’t click and the concepts don’t come together. Hands-on is really where the application happens.”

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at 602-639-7901 or at [email protected]

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