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The Health Affairs Mobile Unit, a customized 40-foot recreational vehicle that is used as a mobile classroom, traveling down a highway.

Its national tour of duty over, the Health Affairs Mobile Unit now enables us to expand our service and outreach mission to South Dakota and the surrounding region, providing health care experiences for our students.

In early 2012, the School of Health Sciences’ Department of Nursing acquired a customized 40-foot recreational vehicle (RV) for use as a mobile classroom. It possessed simulation training opportunities and served USD’s nursing students and others in rural and underserved areas in six western states.

Inside, the 26,000-pound RV contained a fully functioning simulated patient room, a control room and a debrief/meeting room. Onboard equipment allowed USD’s team of instructors to run high fidelity simulations at remote locations, offering students and training participants the same learning opportunities offered by one of USD’s state-of-the-art simulation labs located on the Vermillion and Sioux Falls campuses.

This high-tech vehicle was originally intended to fulfill the conditions of a grant from the federal Department of Labor that utilized USD nursing’s mission to populate rural areas of the country with skilled nursing professionals, taking it to locations in South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona. During that time, the vehicle made 20 trips to far-flung locations throughout its regional assignment area.

A special interest in the Department of Labor effort was to aid training opportunities and encourage work-transitioning military personnel and veterans to pursue positions in health care. Assisting existing nurses in rural settings to achieve new learning and career progression was another important objective. Nearly 1,500 participants benefitted from the various levels of training made possible by the mobile training unit.

Last January, the vehicle was given a different assignment and updated with a new exterior wrap. Jeremy Aylward, business operations coordinator and financial specialist in the School of Health Sciences, led the design project and implemented the plan to adjust the vehicle’s functions from fulltime mobile simulation center to a unit that can accommodate additional roles.

Jeremy Aylward and Julie Radjl stand in from of the Health Affairs Mobile Unit, a customized 40-foot recreational vehicle that is used as a mobile classroom
Jeremy Aylward (left), conceived the repurposing idea and managed the project. Aylward is the coordinator of business operations and a financial specialist for the School of Health Sciences.

Julie Radjl (right), an accountant for the nursing program, also serves as the HAM driver.

According to Aylward, the newly christened and repurposed Health Affairs Mobile Unit (HAM) will serve a variety of innovative purposes. “The plan,” said Aylward, “includes prospects for use by all disciplines in the School of Health Sciences and the Sanford School of Medicine, and that list is long. It has the potential to provide community services and health screenings. It will also be used as a mobile ECHO hub, the online health education service offered by USD to health care professionals across South Dakota, especially those working in rural hospitals and clinics.”

The university’s school of medicine will also have access to the vehicle’s training capabilities. This will be advantageous for that school’s rural and frontier medicine (FARM) program. What also excites Aylward is HAM’s new branding and visibility opportunities that promote USD and its School of Health Sciences, supporting recruitment of students to the university and its health sciences programs.

“The opportunities for this vehicle are endless,” added Aylward. “We see it as a tremendous asset that will boost USD’s Division of Health Affairs in delivering and fulfilling its mission.”