Giving Back with Backpacks

As a part of our yearly charitable giving and volunteer efforts, the employees at Realityworks recently took part in a local Fill-a-Backpack Challenge.

About the Challenge

Despite increased employment in our community, poverty and homelessness have continued to rise in the Eau Claire area since 2008. Each year, the Eau Claire Area School District serves nearly 11,000 students and 48% are living at or below the poverty level (per school poverty rate 26% -81%). These percentages represent nearly 5,000 children and young adults who are living at or below the poverty level. Often these families are unable to afford necessities that support a happy healthy student. Children in these families often lack the necessary supplies critical to academic achievement. Ensuring that children have the necessary supplies to participate in school can reduce truancy, promote learning and build positive self-esteem.

Realityworks employees teamed up in seven groups and competed to see who could fill the most backpacks in a two-week period. This year, the teams chose to support the following local schools: Cadott Elementary, DeLong Middle, Lakeshore Elementary, Longfellow Elementary, Manz Elementary, Meadowview Elementary, and Putnam Heights Elementary.

Overall, the Realityworks team was able to support 63 students with the supplies they need to start their school year right.

Charitable Giving as a Company Philosophy

Each year Realityworks employees get the opportunity to nominate organizations to receive contributions of volunteer hours or outright donations for program assistance. Our community can look to us for support and assistance. Additionally, employees are encouraged to participate in local organizations’ committees and directional boards as a way to better our community through service. We can’t wait to share more of these great opportunities with you!

What makes a good anatomical model?

Anyone who teaches human, animal or plant anatomy knows the value of a good anatomical model – and most will tell you that they’re on a constant lookout for new, high-quality models. Since debuting our first human anatomy models at the Association for Career & Technical Education’s VISION 2017 Conference, we’ve spoken with hundreds of anatomy and physiology instructors about what makes a good anatomical model. In this post, we’ll share the standards we hold our full line of human, animal and plant anatomy models up to.

Why are anatomical models important?

For those looking to enter the various healthcare fields, a thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology is vital – after all, healthcare and the human body go hand in hand. Anatomy and physiology are fundamental in understanding how the body is normally structured and how it normally functions. When a health care worker understands the normal structure and function of the body, he or she has a base to help them recognize conditions that are abnormal. Anatomy and physiology courses are essential to any career in health care. 

However, anatomy and physiology can be difficult to understand at times, and many students find that they need extra help. Nursing students are often excluded from experiences like exposure to cadaveric material that might enable them to gain a good working knowledge of internal human anatomy. This is where high-quality anatomical models can help.

Requirements of a good anatomical model

When we add a new model to our anatomical model product line, we make sure it…

  • … looks and feels real. You know you have a good model when the students buy into it. How can you tell? They like it; they might even say how cool (or disgusting) it looks and they treat it like real anatomy.
  • … teaches what it says it will. It works if it includes the organs or the system it says it does. This is particularly effective when the anatomical models can be taken apart and assembled by students. Students can learn the anatomy in-situ which gives it the extra element of realism.
  • … matches the curriculum being used in the classroom. Why is that requirement important? You can have the best-looking anatomical model around, but if you cannot use it or integrate it seamlessly into your curriculum, then it is not the best choice.

Are you ready to add high-quality anatomical models to your classroom?

5 Resources for Back to School with RealCare Baby®

You are back in the swing of things after a wonderful summer break and you have all these beautiful RealCare Babies looking at you… now what?

We want you your program to be successful – we’re here to help!

Whether you inherited a program and have never used the product before or are a novice RealCare Baby user, these 5 resources will help you get your program working:


Lost your software? Was your computer updated over the summer? Don’t worry – you can download the most up-to-date version of RealCare Baby® Control Center Software® for FREE on our website. Use the software to program up to 100 babies, up to 7 days in advance. The software is also where you get your reports and can put Baby in Demonstration Mode.

Get your Control Center Software here.


Have a Baby making a funny noise, or not working at all? Are you unsure how to add a Baby to the software or deploy the program? Our amazing support team is here to help.

Visit our online Product Support web portal here.

You can chat with us online or fill out a form to have us contact you.


Each RealCare Baby 3 needs 1 bottle, 2 diapers (a yellow and a green), a 2-piece outfit, a sleeper, a bodysuit, and an ID with wristband. All these items are required to use Baby, whether it’s overnight, through the weekend or for an entire week.

Lost any of the above items or need to replace an item? Visit our online store.


Baby can be programmed to run on one of 15 care schedules, or you can program it to run on a random schedule. The care schedules were created from actual infants over a 24-hour period!

View all of the care schedule options here.


If you are unsure which version of Baby you have and where to begin, fill out this form and we will connect with you to help!

Free webinar: Back to School RealCare Baby – Tips and Tricks
Thursday, September 12 from 12-12:30 pm CST
In this 30-minute webinar, Realityworks’ RealCare Baby® experts will share tips and tricks to help you prepare your RealCare Program for the new school year. Tips include curriculum highlights, student engagement ideas, product support tricks and more. Register here.

If you’re still not sure where to start, contact us. We’ll connect you with our Product Support Team, your local Account Manager or whoever can assist you in getting your RealCare Baby Program up and running successfully for the school year!

Virtual Reality Training Immerses Ag Students in Welding Skills

By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks Product Manager

Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the American Welding Society’s August 2019 Welding Journal

High school students practice basic welding skills on virtual reality welding simulators, which offer immediate, personalized feedback on fundamental techniques.

Welding is all around us. It is in the appliances we use to prepare our daily meals, the transportation we use to get around each day, the bridges that enable us to get from place to place, and the buildings we live and work in.

In fact, 70% of all manufactured products feature welded parts, with a variety of jobs in manufacturing, production, construction, and more depending on employees with welding skills (Ref. 1).

Like welding, we see the impact of agriculture on a daily basis. Agriculture is responsible for the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the medicine we take, and the homes we live in.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, in 2015, agriculture and related industries contributed $992 billion to U.S. gross domestic product; jobs in farming, horticulture, food science, and more depend on employees with agriculture knowledge (Ref. 2).

Agriculture is as vital to our lives as welding — and in education, the two courses of study often go hand in hand.

At Realityworks, we strive to create learning aids and develop programs that engage today’s students in high-demand career pathways and help them develop industry-needed skills. To do that successfully, we communicate regularly with education and industry representatives, paying close attention to their program needs and the hurdles they face as they train our future workforce.

The Need for Welders, Ag Skills

When we entered the welding education space five years ago, the American Welding Society (AWS) was estimating a growing skills gap in the welding industry. The organization concluded that by 2020, there will be a shortage of 290,000 professionals, including inspectors, engineers, welders, and teachers (Ref. 3).

More recently, AWS Foundation Executive Director Monica Pfarr noted that within the next decade, there will be a need to fill nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs, yet a gap in key manufacturing skills would “likely result in some two million of those jobs going unfilled.” Pfarr also noted that the welding industry alone is expected to produce at least 5000 new jobs each year in the United States (Ref. 4). In short, the need for welders remains strong.

Marana High School Welding Instructor Kenton Webb explains to his students how to use a live welding training tool to fine-tune their welding techniques in the booth. The tool provides video game-like guides inside the welding helmet to guide students as they practice.

Similarly, agriculture careers are in high demand. When we started creating agriculture learning aids two years ago, employers were struggling to find qualified candidates for a number of growing careers. In 2016, there were 21.4 million full- and part-time jobs related to the agricultural and food industries; the USDA reported that between 2015 and 2020, there would be almost 58,000 annual openings for graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees in food, agriculture, renewable resources, or the environment (Ref. 5). However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cites there are only about 35,000 new U.S. graduates with expertise in these areas each year (Ref. 6).

Importance of Training Tools, Learning Aids

When we talk to welding and agriculture educators today, we hear the need for training tools and programs that engage students in these in-demand fields and help them develop basic skills efficiently and effectively.

Today’s career and technical education (CTE) instructors often need to be experts in a variety of fields, and if training time isn’t abundant or even available, the training tools themselves must be relatively easy to learn, and they must produce quantitative data.

With the help of her instructor, a Wisconsin high school student practices welding for the first time on a virtual reality welding simulator

Another need we often hear about is for learning aids that offer career exploration opportunities for those who are unfamiliar with potential job options. Welding may no longer be thought of as a “dirty job,” but welding instructors tell us there are still plenty of students who could benefit from exposure to this in-demand career.

Agriculture instructors battle similar assumptions regularly as well, reporting that students often don’t understand exactly what agriculture encompasses and don’t know of the variety of agriculture careers that are available.

Are these misconceptions because fewer students are coming to CTE courses from the farm? Perhaps. One hundred years ago, a third of Americans were farmers; today, fewer than 2% are (Ref. 7).

For those working to equip today’s students with the skills to succeed in these high-demand careers, finding teaching strategies and training tools that engage students in these pathways and expose them to needed skills will help develop the skilled workers our workforce needs.

Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the American Welding Society’s August 2019 Welding Journal.

5 Teaching Tools That Will Excite Your Ag Students

There are a lot of reasons your students should be excited about agriculture. After all, they get to learn about farming, food and natural resources by doing some really cool things such as participating in hands-on learning opportunities outside the classroom and joining student organizations like the National FFA Organization. The lessons you’re teaching will help them develop all sorts of valuable skills, from science and math to communication and leadership.

Of course, your students might not understand this (yet), and even if they do, some lessons are harder to get excited about. That’s where our agriculture products come in. Our agriculture learning aids give today’s students the interactive learning opportunities they crave – opportunities that are relevant, authentic and will get them excited about the agriculture lessons you’re teaching.

We spoke with our customers to find out which of our agriculture products they use most often to generate excitement in their classrooms. Here are their top 5:

1. Bovine Injection Simulator

Requested by ag instructors to teach fundamental skills for agriculture and vet tech students, this simulator gives students hands-on experience giving injections, applying ear tags and more, without leaving the classroom.

2. Bovine Breeder™ artificial insemination simulator

This unique simulator has caught the attention of many ag education publications, as it enables students to learn and practice an in-demand skill right in the classroom.

3. guideWELD® VR welding simulator

Welding is one of the high-wage, high-demand careers we hear about in the workforce today. With this engaging and interactive simulator, students can learn basic techniques while exploring a potential career.

4. Goat Model

Like the rest of our animal science models, our Goat Model splits in half to reveal organs and structures your students can interact with.

5. Corn Stalk Model

While this is brand-new as of summer 2019 and has yet to hit classrooms, this unique model is already a huge hit with educators. We created this in close partnership with educators who said teaching about corn growth and common deficiencies is near impossible during the school year when corn is not in season.

Ready to discover even more engaging teaching tools for your ag program? Click here to see everything we offer for agriculture education.

Teaching In-Demand Skills: How Healthcare Educators Are Engaging Today’s Students

By Emily Kuhn, Communications Specialist for Realityworks, Inc.

CNA student using Realityworks' Geriatric Simulator, a wearable age simulation suit that enables students to experience a variety of age-related physical  and visual challenges.
Above, a CNA student wears Realityworks’ Geriatric Simulator in class as part of a unit on empathy and sensitivity toward elderly patients. The wearable suit simulates a variety of age-related physical challenges.

This post was originally published in the October 2017 issue of ACTE’s Techniques magazine. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

Healthcare educators are changing the way they teach patient care skills, and for good reason. U.S. demand for healthcare expected to grow twice as fast as the national economy in the next eight years, prompting concerns about unfilfilled healthcare jobs. What’s more, older Americans are retiring in droves; this 2018 study projects that within just a few decades, older people will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.

As demand for nursing and geriatric care increases, so will the importance of using learning aids that truly engage new generations of healthcare students — students with shorter attention spans, better technical skills and a stronger desire for authentic, real-world learning experiences than their predecessors (Hawkins, 2015).

“Curriculum may not have changed, but students are definitely changing,” said Kasey Carlson, RN, MSN, M.Ed. A nursing faculty member and educational technologist at a Wisconsin college, Carlson was a registered nurse for six years and has taught in the healthcare field for more than 10. “We used to do a lot of textbook and lectures, with very little hands-on experience. When I went to school, we didn’t have a whole lot of technology; a standard mannequin was a brand-new concept to us. But now we are looking at a generation that has been brought up with multimedia and video games. They are more real-life focused. They remember more if they have an experience.”

Teaching Today’s Digital Natives

You may have heard the term “digital native” used to describe today’s students, most of whom were born after 1995 and are therefore members of “Generation Z.” They are considered digital natives because they grew up with technology, and have never known a world without media.

This means that the standard classroom model where an educator stands in front of the class and lectures just doesn’t work. Generation Z students want to be successful — in fact, the desire to change the world is a hallmark of this generation — but they will disengage with the discussion if they don’t feel connected or if they don’t see the relevance (Wotapka, 2017).

Generation Z students are accustomed to immediate feedback. Current technology enables them to learn anything, anytime, anywhere. The world is at their fingertips. Thus, these students are not satisfied simply hearing about a topic. They want to see it, touch it and feel it.

That’s why Miranda Kessler, RN-BSN, is using interactive tools like age simulation suits in her health occupations program at Nicholas County Career and Technical Education Center in West Virginia. Not only do her feedback-hungry students thrive when given opportunities to engage in active learning opportunities, but such activities can help them develop employability skills like critical thinking, problem solving and attention to detail — skills that some hiring managers have found lacking in today’s students (Dishman, 2016).

In the two decades she has been helping 11th- and 12th-graders prepare to obtain their state nursing assistant certifications, Kessler has seen firsthand the way her students’ learning styles have changed, and she strives to incorporate interactive teaching tools like simulators as often as she can.

“Years ago, everything was done with paper and pencil. You read the book, did the worksheet, took a written test and moved on until you got through the material and it was time for clinicals,” said Kessler. “Now, technology is front and center. Anything that captures students’ attention and can get them excited and make them want to learn is welcome in my classroom. And ‘cool tools’ like simulators always keep my kids’ attention.”

Cool Tools for Engaging Generation Z

When Kessler saw literature for the RealCare Geriatric Simulator at an education conference, she went straight to her administrator to share the discovery.

“When I told my principal about the simulator and he saw how excited I was to implement it into my program, he bought in immediately,” recalled Kessler. “He was actually the first person to try it when it arrived! He was amazed by how it changed his normal, routine activities and made everything feel much more physically demanding.”

The Geriatric Simulator sensitivity suit allows students to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges. It includes a weighted vest, ankle weights, wrist weights, elbow restraints, knee restraints, gloves, a cervical collar and visual impairment glasses. When students try to accomplish tasks like walking around, opening pill bottles and buttoning shirts, they begin to understand the way physical challenges like decreased mobility, stooped posture, cataracts and glaucoma can affect daily life.

“I wanted to be able to teach my students to be more understanding and empathetic with the aging process once we made it into our clinical rotation at the local nursing home,” Kessler said of why she incorporated the simulator into her program. “I wanted them to understand why the residents moved so slowly and I wanted them to learn to be patient and kind while working with them.”

Bobby Scanlon is a nurse educator with Dove Healthcare in West Central Wisconsin. With over two decades of experience teaching geriatric care, she knows how important it is to teach her students empathy and compassion toward the elderly. Scanlon regularly emphasizes the interactions her students have with residents during clinicals and encourages them to observe and consider why residents behaved in certain ways.

However, those skills can be difficult to teach without giving students the chance to experience for themselves what their patients are going through. When Scanlon discovered the Geriatric Simulator, she didn’t hesitate to try it in her classroom – and saw immediate results.

“Change can be hard, but when I see something and it excites me, then I’m going to try to incorporate it in class as soon as possible,” said Scanlon. “With this simulator, students don’t need to wait until they get to the floor to see what’s happening with the residents – they can feel and experience it for themselves. And what’s more, it brings excitement into the classroom.”

The Geriatric Medication Management Kit is an interactive learning ad that enables students to experience a loss of tactile sensation and visual impairments while trying to manage multiple prescriptions. Like the Geriatric Simulator, it was created to help healthcare students understand the unique challenges so many elderly people face every day. Taking multiple medications is the norm for most older adults, after all; a 2017 study showed that 87% of seniors take more than a single prescription drug and almost 40% take 5 or more.

According to Carlson, tools like wearable simulators and interactive learning aids can help healthcare educators address employability skills like empathy and sensitivity toward the elderly.

“Empathy is one of the most difficult things to teach a student. It’s something students have to experience and grow themselves, versus being told to do it,” Carlson said. “The hands-on component allows students to think critically through a procedure, but also focus on the patient, and on professionalism.”

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

Ready to learn more about the tools and resources that are available for teaching empathy and geriatric sensitivity to today’s 21st Century healthcare students? Click here.

4 Key Topics for Teaching Child Care Center Design (And Why They’re Important)

Above, a student contemplates a child care center layout using Realityworks’ Child Care Center Design Kit.

When we debuted our first hands-on learning aid, RealCare Baby®, almost two decades ago, our primary focus was teen pregnancy prevention. Since then, we’ve expanded our line of Family and Consumer Science-related training tools to address the important college- and career-focused standards that today’s Early Childhood programs require.

For instance, we know that today’s FCS teachers are working hard to ensure their programs lead to industry-recognized certifications such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. Learning aids like our Child Care Center Design Kit and its accompanying curriculum help FCS instructors teach transferable career skills and knowledge – knowledge that, in this case, enables students to plan a child care center that is welcoming, safe and effective.

In this post, we’ll dive into the Child Care Center Classroom Design curriculum that comes with the kit and share why it addresses 4 key topics: managing flow, how to plan a great layout, the impact of classroom design on infants and toddlers, and using learning centers in child care.

Why are these lessons important?

 According to Loralie Wallerius, a former Career and Technical Education instructor who owns a child care center near our WI headquarters, and who helped write our Child Care Center Design Kit curriculum, it’s important to remember that young children do not naturally function in a group setting.

“Children are solitary, egocentric beings who need to learn how to play and cooperate with others,” she said. “Because of that, it’s important for child care designers to consider the age and social/emotional development of the children in any group or classroom.”

Important considerations include: What types of activities need to take place in the room? How many spaces do you want to create for children, and how many children will be in each of these spaces? What are the lines of sight and natural walking paths? What custodial duties need to be incorporated into the space?

To address those considerations, our Child Care Center Classroom Design curriculum addresses 4 key topics:

Using learning centers in child care: Learning centers are one of the easiest and most effective ways to set up an early childhood classroom. After all, children learn best through play and hands-on learning. Through these centers, teachers introduce new toys and learning materials that will build on the developmental skills of children, which encourages them try new things, stretch their imaginations and practice their developmental skills.

Managing flow: When considering where learning centers should be placed in a room, we must always consider a few things: Where does traffic naturally flow through a room? Which learning centers require the most space? Are there areas that lend themselves to louder or quieter forms of play and learning? How many teachers are in a room? Where do teachers need to be when they are assisting children with custodial cares like diapers and hand-washing? Can they see the children in their care while doing these things? The answers to these questions will help in the flow of a classroom.

How to plan a great layout: Planning a great layout takes thought, consideration of many different factors and variables, and time. It is not uncommon for a teacher to conceptualize the layout of a classroom only to find that the flow doesn’t work right once they set things up or move things around. Furthermore, teachers should look at the room from several different perspectives, evaluating for safety as well as engagement. Teachers play a vital role in how children utilize a classroom and the toys and materials in the room.

The impact of classroom design on infants and toddlers: Children do not develop cooperative play skills until they are close to 3 years old, which means that infants and toddlers who are in group settings are actually expected to function in a way that is very unnatural for them. They need spaces where they can safely grow in all developmental areas. Keeping these things in mind as you design a classroom for infants and toddlers is vital.

With good planning and forethought, the environment of the classroom (the placement of shelves, tables, learning centers, toys and more) becomes a support system to the teachers. The environment can even be looked at as an “assistant” to the teachers because it will support the care, learning and development that they are trying to accomplish.

Ready to learn more about our Child Care Center Design Kit? Click here to review product details, download the curriculum overview, request a personalized quote or order the kit via our online store.

Students at Guilford Technical Community College’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing Can Now Work Virtually Before Hitting the Shop

With North Carolina considered a top state for manufacturing jobs (it boasts the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast), Guildford Technical Community College (GTCC) is prepared to groom more workers to fill any potential skills gap.1 GTCC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing opened the doors of its 250,000 square-foot facility in 2018; the six-acre building offers more space to five college programs and more state-of-the-art equipment. Thanks to program expansion, its welding program now has over 70 welding and cutting stations as opposed to its previous 32.

“I have partnerships with several employers in the community. That way, we design a program so that students are prepared to go to work for that company,” said longtime welding instructor Don Ellington. Ellington has been at GTCC for over 15 years and played a major role in the renovation and opening of the center. Ellington knows the community has a need for quality welders, and he believes his program can help solve that gap.

With the expanded facility a few things are crucial to making it successful: recruitment, ensuring students are engaged and ensuring that Ellington is producing quality workers for the community. One addition he made to his program to address each of these requirements: virtual welding simulators.

“These kids can try out welding on the simulator to see if this is something they are even interested in and I can evaluate their progress before putting them in a booth,” said Ellington. “I can adjust the simulator to create a WPS to meet the needs of a local employer. We create modules that are custom to those employers with very specific WPS’s.”

Another benefit of the simulators is cost savings. Ellington believes he will save about 10% on metal by using these machines. More importantly, his students will receive proper training to ensure they are a good fit for this career path.

“I see value in saving material costs, but more, I see value in students getting a common understanding of the basics, such as travel angle, work angle, nozzle distant, speed and straightness,” stated Ellington.

GTCC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing utilizes several Realityworks, Inc. products, including the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system. Both tools were created and are used in educational institutions around the country to help today’s 21st Century students learn correct welding techniques and engage them with authentic, hands-on learning experiences while addressing classroom management and safety concerns. For more information on Realityworks products, visit:


How to Choose the Best Simulation for Your Welding Program

Note: This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Techniques. ACTE members can read the complete article on page 8 of the current issue. Not a member? Click here to join and access this monthly career and technical education publication.

for students, inspiring educators to rethink how they prepare students for high-demand, high-skill and high-wage jobs. CTE program administrators strive to hire certified instructors, and funding is often based on the number of students to achieve certification in high-demand, high-wage and high-skill fields.

In the past, this might have meant purchasing high-cost equipment to mimic the workplace. Students would train on those products and perhaps become proficient. But now preparing students for these jobs is less about equipment, and more about the skills necessary to move into a career in a chosen field.

The Cost of Hands-on Learning
When you think about a hands-on learning resource for welding programs, you might consider that welding is hands-on by nature. Often, welding students gather at a distance, all dressed in protective equipment and darkening helmets, as they observe an instructor demonstrate a very intricate technique. Students are expected to watch, understand and then practice. ­is can be a very costly endeavor; students learning to weld can go through materials very quickly, and they don’t always develop a deep understanding of what they are doing. Simulation, in comparison, allows students to
experience welding in a way they can’t in the booth — learning, for example, why a work angle is critical to creating a weld that will hold. Simulation allows them to experience and improve the skills they need to become certified welders.

Simulation is a method for practice and learning. It is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones. ­rough simulation, students can replicate the real-world welding experience and become immersed in an interactive fashion. is results in a deeper understanding of the necessary skills, and it enables them to transfer those skills even faster. In welding, students can master techniques like work angle, travel angle and speed in a safe environment before they enter a welding booth.

Studies show that students who learn to weld in a virtual environment learn faster and more efficiently (Stone, McLaurin, Zhong & Watts, 2013). To create a quality weld, you need to master speed. Welding procedure specifications require a welder to perform an optimal weld at a specified number of inches per minute. If you were told to move your hand from left to right at 11 inches per minute, how would you know how to do that? How would you know if you were going too fast, too slow or just right? You would practice and practice, examining your welds for defects and hoping you would eventually gain mastery.

In the virtual world, students are guided so that they gain muscle memory from the start. They receive immediate feedback and are given the opportunity to alter their speed if necessary. Once student welders have mastered their technique in the virtual world, they can move on to real equipment and welding metal. Making these resources available to many students at once is crucial to the success of the welding workforce.

ACTE members, log in to read the complete article on page 8 of the May Techniques issue. Not a member? Click here to join.

Diane Ross is the education development manager for Realityworks, Inc., where she works with states and school districts to develop better programs, products and pathways in career and technical education programs. She has a master’s in secondary education from Marshall University and is an advisor for the National Standards for FACS Education. Email her at


Geriatric Simulators Teach Empathy to Future Health Care Workers in California

Kathy Thompson, LVN, is an instructor at the Health Academy at La Sierra High School in Riverside, CA. A partnership with the county office, the high school, Kaiser Permanente and local universities and colleges, the academy has been in place since 1991 as a way to offer health care pathway training to students who may not otherwise have exposure to these careers. Thompson’s senior students spend the fall semester at the school learning how to care for patients, then spend four days a week at the local hospital in various departments alongside health care professionals.

“I very much like the hands-on activities that drive home the realities of aging,” Thompson explained. “When working with adolescents, they are so invincible. It is good for them to experience the vulnerability of the elderly and for them to live in their shoes, even if for a class period.”

In the spring of 2018, she saw Realityworks’ Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit and Geriatric Medication Management Simulation Kit in action at the California Educating for Careers conference and decided they would be a good addition to her program. Designed for secondary and postsecondary education programs, these kits allow users to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges. The director of the program saw Thompson’s enthusiasm for the geriatric training simulators and was able to support the addition to the program thanks to available finances through grant funds.

“At 17 or 18, the students have no real concept of what it is like to age,” Thompson observed. “Students were hesitant to even touch the elderly and could not relate to their circumstances of living. I had no way to help prepare them for this part of the experience.”

Thompson made a two-week unit using the two kits and the accompanying curricula. She addresses one lesson per class; students must take notes during a slide presentation, experience the impact of the specific condition and reflect on the impact.

Read the rest of Kathy Thompson’s story here.

Learn more about the Realityworks Geriatric Sensitivity Training Tools here.