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Heimarck School, theater students team up  

MOORHEAD — Sanford Heimarck School of Health Professions and Theater Department students team up together to create a Standardized Patients program.  

“I think it’s an extremely unique opportunity for the theater department and school of health professionals,” said Mary Noah, the student coordinator of Standardized Patients.  

The theater students help the school of health professions by acting as simulated patients, family members and coworkers that provide a real-life scenario for the healthcare students to practice their skills in an on-the-job format.  

“It’s really fun to see students build more with real patients and prepare for the real world where it might feel uncomfortable at first, but it is the best place to make mistakes but be able to correct it,” said Toni Dahlmeier, the simulation lab coordinator at the Sanford Heimarck School of Health Professions.  

The theater students are provided with scenarios, patient portfolios and basic scripts that provide an outline for what kind of situations to act out. This allows the healthcare students to use their skills that they have learned to practice on real people instead of on mannequins.  

“They act in these situations to simulate what working in the actual healthcare field might be like,” Noah said.  

The theater students receive any preparation information at least a few weeks before when they need to perform. When the time comes for the simulation, it normally takes about one to four hours to run through all the students doing each of the simulations. The students will come back to do this process for the next few days.  

“The simulation world is all about collaboration,” Dahlmeier said.  

The dean of the Heimarck School of Health Profession, Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, hasworkedd with Dahlmeier on this program since before the new building opened.  

Halaas had seen something like the Standardized Patients Program at the University of North Dakota, but it was a graduate school program.  

“We wanted to create an undergraduate program for interprofessional’s and to not just be limited to majors but to bring students together,” Halaas said.  

This program started in Feb. of 2024. Dahlmeier and Halaas already have big dreams for the program to grow.   

Currently the program is for nursing majors and nutrition majors with the help of theater majors. In the future Dahlmeier hopes to expand out to social work majors as well. Dahlmeier and Halaas are also looking to expand to community members who have retired to work with different demographics.  

“Anyone can participate who has a passion for bringing situations to life and helping healthcare,” Halaas said.  

As the program develops, Dahlmeier hopes to partner with the theater department and make a class for standardized participants. The class would be to create skills and to learn more about nursing as a role used in developing their standardized patients act.   

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