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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSU nabs $250,000 grant for Indigenous-developed and -instructed clinical simulation space

WSU Health Sciences students learn and practice in a simulation space in the Center for Native American Health.  (Washington State University)

Washington State University will receive a $250,000 grant from Bank of America to build an Indigenous-developed and -instructed clinical simulation space on its Spokane campus, the first of its kind in the country.

Clinical simulation space is a funky term, but the concept is simple. Simulation rooms look just like the exam room at your primary physician or a typical hospital bed, but are solely dedicated to students learning the ropes without conducting health care.

They make sure students can bridge the gap between the classroom and real life in a safe environment, and are a staple in medical and nursing schools across the country.

But while simulation rooms are common, an entire space solely developed by Indigenous instructors can be considered groundbreaking.

“Bank of America is investing in a future where our health care workforce will begin to eliminate health disparities through culturally centered knowledge and practices that counterbalance western views, instead of perpetuating them,” said Naomi Bender, director of WSU Spokane’s Native American Health Sciences program.

The space will allow WSU students to learn about Indigenous health and wellness from Native healers, a unique opportunity with only 0.4% of working U.S. physicians being Native American, according to WSU.

The Native American Health Sciences program at WSU will construct 1,045 square feet of clinical space to include a patient exam simulation room, a hospital patient exam simulation room, a teaching and mediation room, and storage for the clinical simulation spaces and accompanying healing modalities.

While integrating culturally centered healing practices into the curriculum is an important part of the project, developers also hope the space furthers the increasing diversity in health care that WSU Spokane has helped spark. In the last academic year, WSU Spokane saw a 50% increase in Native students matriculating to the medicine, nursing and pharmacy programs.

The space will be added as a wing to the Native American Health Center, which opened in early 2021 on the campus in Spokane.

For Bank of America, the funding was a no-brainer.

When it comes to racial equity, society has come up short in the past, particularly for Native Americans,” said Katherine Morgan, Spokane market executive at Bank of America. “This is a scalable model that could have an enormous impact on equity in health care … it was an easy decision.”

The grant reflects a recent push by the company to address equity issues, which also includes a $1.25 billion, five-year initiative by the company to advance racial equality and economic opportunity in the country.

NAHS is also developing a 12-credit Interprofessional Indigenous Healing Perspectives certificate that will use the new clinical simulation wing to advance cultural safety practices in medicine.

“This program is creating pathways for Native American communities by reimagining both education and patient care in a way that is uniquely influenced by those it will serve,” said Kurt Walsdorf, Bank of America Spokane president.

A spokesperson said WSU hopes the wing will be completed by 2023.