Syretta Spears, manager of the Simulation, Technology, Innovation and Modeling Center at the UCF College of Nursing, has been honored with the Frontline Simulation Champion Excellence Award from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.

The annual award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the day-to-day implementation of simulation and to excellence in the delivery of simulation-based learning. Spears received the award Thursday at the association’s 2019 conference in Phoenix. The association is a global community of more than 1,800 industry leaders, educators and researchers dedicated to transforming practice to improve patient safety through excellence in healthcare simulation.

“The advancement and desire to expound on the science of simulation drives her,” says Assistant Professor Desiree A. Díaz. “Syretta has provided a level of stability and spirit of excellence in the daily operations of our STIM Center and fosters an environment of innovation.”

“Syretta is the one individual we have come to trust to ensure our simulation-based learning experiences meet the highest standards,” says Laura Gonzalez, simulation director at the college. “She supports the facilitators and ensures the activities provide an enriching experience for all learners.”

One such activity is the development of an “Escape Rescue Room,” where teams of students are given hidden clues to address a patient mannequin’s signs and symptoms. The innovative, yet informative, method is used to enhance teaching and learning of health policies, hospital procedures and guidelines.  This successful activity was recently selected for presentation at the National League for Nursing Summit.

Additionally, Spears recently led the efforts to create Simsations 4 Life at the college. In the interdisciplinary club, simulation activities are brought to life with undergraduate and graduate students as well as volunteers from LIFE@UCF (Learning Institute for Elders) who participate as embedded patients. Spears also created the online orientation and helped develop a “Haunted Lab” and “Amazing Race” experience, demonstrating her creativity and innovation in the field.

“The creation of the club has elevated our simulation fidelity, or realism, tenfold,” says Gonzalez.

Spears has been the STIM Center manager since 2016 and was among the first graduates of the college’s innovative and interdisciplinary healthcare simulation graduate certificate program. Last year she became one of the first to earn the Certified Healthcare Simulation Operations Specialist designation. The certification is an international recognition of her specialized knowledge, skills, abilities and accomplishments in the field. Now she is preparing to conduct her first webinar to mentor other simulationists.

At UCF, she is part an elite team of healthcare simulation experts, including three advanced certified healthcare simulation educators, two certified healthcare simulation educators, and an internationally recognized computer scientist and engineer.

This is the third consecutive year that an excellence award from the association honored a faculty or staff member from the UCF College of Nursing. Associate Professor Mindi Anderson and Díaz were honored with the Excellence in Academia award in 2018 and 2017, respectively.