CVTC’s new dental sim lab increases capacity, offers learning apart from clinic


CVTC’s new dental sim lab increases capacity, offers learning apart from clinic

CVTC’s new dental sim lab increases capacity, offers learning apart from clinic

By Alyssa Van Duyse, Chippewa Valley Technical College

EAU CLAIRE – Sarah Martin and Skyler Ramsey stood in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s new dental simulation lab recently – overhearing the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd that gathered.

“This (simulation lab) will be really beneficial for the new first-year students coming in because that first semester is where you’re learning all your hand skills and instrumentation,” said Martin, 24, a CVTC dental hygiene student from Humbird. “It’s a dedicated space that will give students more time to work on their hand skills.”

Dental manikins have been Pam Entorf’s dream for years. Entorf, the College’s dental assistant and hygienist instructor and program director, and Myra Reuter, executive dean of Allied Health and emergency services, made CVTC’s case for the sim lab to the Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation Board of Directors in July 2023. Shortly thereafter, the women were informed CVTC was awarded a grant to construct the Delta Dental of Wisconsin Dental Simulation Lab.

On Thursday, April 25, Entorf, Reuter and Shannon Semmerling, Delta Dental of Wisconsin director of philanthropy and public benefit, rolled out the green dental floss-like ribbon to cut during the open house event for CVTC supporters.

The lab was created in a large classroom, formerly a computer lab, at the College’s Health Education Center and is already providing students with a consistent learning experience. It is the first of its kind in the Wisconsin Technical College System.

“We’re training the workforce of the future,” Entorf said. “Having the ability of simulation doubles the students’ chair time and their ability to master the skills.”

Reuter said the new lab provides both dental programs the ability to accept additional students, dental manikins and more realistic practice.

The lab consists of 15 training stations with room to grow to 20. The College expects to graduate an additional 10 assisting students and five hygiene students each year.

Martin, the second-semester student, said she moved up six spots on the waiting list and was able to enter the program earlier than anticipated because of the new lab.

“It’s really important to have those extra seats,” she said.

The CVTC Dental Clinic also sees patients, and the sim lab will increase productivity in the clinic so more patients can be seen. The simulation opportunity is expected to increase care to low-income dental patients seen in CVTC’s clinic by 10 percent.

More seats for students also means more graduates. That’s music to dentists’ ears.

A poll in 2022 by the American Dental Association showed nearly 40 percent of dentists were trying to recruit hygienists. Of those, 95 percent said it was extremely difficult or very difficult to hire someone. In the 20 largest U.S. cities, the ADA’s polling showed only half of the hygienist positions reported as filled.

Entorf said the new manikins will be portable, and she plans to take them to high schools to pique the curiosity of students in hopes they might choose the profession.

Ramsey, the 20-year-old hygiene student from Ashland, said the lab is incredibly beneficial for students who enter the program and don’t have a background in dental.

“It’s less intimidating than being in the clinic, which is where we were for our first semester,” she said. “Now when first-semester students come in, they’re more in a classroom setting where they can learn their hand skills before going into the clinic.”

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