Longtime WSU faculty member a pioneer in healthcare simulation

Control Room

Decades before there was healthcare simulation using high-tech mannequins, there was Charlene Clark.

A faculty member at the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education – now called the Washington State University College of Nursing – Clark thought there was a better way to teach nursing skills than to have an instructor demonstrating at the front of a classroom.

“I thought it would be interesting to put more responsibility on the students to learn rather than mimic someone without any understanding of the principles behind the skill,” she said recently.

1976 portrait of charlene clark
Charlene Clark in 1976

So in 1972 she developed modules with readings and videos or filmstrips, which students studied before practicing in the skills lab.

“It gives the opportunity for students to learn in a non-threatening environment,” said Clark, who eventually became the College of Nursing’s associate dean for instructional resources. “It’s also an environment that allows learning and not just repeating something back verbatim.”

Clark presented information about the college’s approach at a 1976 conference, drawing interest by other programs and by Laerdal, a company that now is one of the world’s leading vendors of medical simulation equipment. She was asked to speak at the inaugural Learning Resources Conference in 1978, which ultimately became the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.

Under Clark’s guidance, the college added audio-visual and television production, and distributed its skills videos nationwide.

The college named its simulation space in honor of Clark, who retired in 2004.

Two years later, the journal Clinical Simulation in Nursing Education published a “Tribute to Charlene Clark,” calling her a pioneer in the use of simulation who left “a lasting legacy.”

Read about the College of Nursing simulation program’s new name and next steps at this link