Virtual simulators, financial support provided to students

The global pandemic has put into sharp focus the ever-present need for healthcare workers, especially in rural communities. Simultaneously, nursing students are experiencing difficulty gaining access to the clinical experiences they need to graduate, because of that very same virus. So, how can new nurses be trained to fill critical needs?

Nursing student

The Colorado Mountain College Foundation recently received a major grant from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation. The funds will help nursing students on Colorado’s Western Slope get the training they need to step into the workplace.

Colorado Mountain College has recently received a grant from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation through the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation. The funds will help nurses on Colorado’s Western Slope get the training they need to step into the workplace.

Specifically, the Rural Nursing Success Fund at the college allows CMC to add virtual simulation modules for its nursing students and instructors, and additionally creates a nursing income share agreement fund to provide students with an innovative way to fund their education.

ISA payback based on work

An income share agreement, also known as an ISA, is a contract between a financial institution or college and a student. In return for funds covering the student’s cost of attendance, students agree to share a small portion of their future earnings for a certain period of time after graduation.

Nurses trained by Colorado Mountain College will be able to participate in an ISA that has no interest and caps the total repayment at the amount borrowed. Further, to incentivize students to stay and work in our mountain communities, grant funding forgives 25% of the student’s total debt for those who do. This ISA is available to students enrolled in one of CMC’s three nursing programs (Glenwood Springs, Breckenridge, and Steamboat Springs), whether they have access to federal financial aid or not.

Virtual simulators in rural communities

“We are honored to collaborate with the Johnson & Johnson Foundation to grow the pipeline of nurses in our mountain communities and give them the tools needed to succeed,” said Kristin Heath Colon, CEO of the CMC Foundation. “We believe CMC is uniquely well positioned to recruit and educate diverse candidates in a high-need service area, while additionally providing an example of innovative financing that could be replicated in other environments.”

“Access to the virtual simulation products and technology support given by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation is helping to eliminate the barriers our rural students can experience in obtaining clinical hours due to the extensive distances they must travel between our mountain towns,” said Susan Moreland, dean of the School of Nursing, Health Sciences and Public Safety at CMC. “This has never been more necessary than now, with the restrictions COVID-19 has placed on our communities.

“This funding is playing a key role in our ability to give students exposure to all of the learning modules they need to graduate and quickly get jobs,” she said.

Colorado Mountain College offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing at its campuses in Spring Valley-Glenwood Springs, Breckenridge and, most recently, Steamboat Springs.

In addition, the college recently received a $2.125 million Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to strengthen CMC’s nursing labs, police officer training programs and skilled trades programs. CMC will use the SIP grant funds primarily on equipment and supplies needed to increase capacity for instruction.

The SIP funds have also enabled the college to launch a fundraising initiative to build three nursing simulation labs at the three campuses where it teaches nursing. That fundraising initiative is off to a great start thanks to the grant from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation.


To support CMC’s nursing program or to learn more about eligibility for the nursing ISA, please contact CMC Foundation CEO Kristin Heath Colon at

One solution to COVID-19 isolation: Students can now use simulators

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in April Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued Executive Order D 2020 038, which removed regulatory barriers for nurse and nurse aide students in educational programs throughout Colorado. This came about as a way to help students graduate, while bolstering the ability of nurses and certified nurse aides to enter or remain in the workforce.

One of the key elements of this executive order was to allow clinical simulation to be applied toward required clinical hours, above the normal allowance of 50%. Clinical judgment (decision making) of professional nurses requires the ability to anticipate patient health status, and to prevent patient complications and/or negative outcomes. Effective case studies help students rehearse clinical patient situation or circumstances in a safe learning environment.

The National League of Nursing allows for some of this simulation to be done virtually, using virtual simulation modules in which students and instructors work “side-by-side” on computerized case studies, simulating scenarios where students must work to quickly and appropriately solve for the unpredictability of patient health conditions.

With the Johnson & Johnson Foundation funds, CMC has been able to purchase 90 different virtual simulation modules. These modules provide students interactive case studies in nine different specialty areas, such as maternity, gerontology, pediatrics and mental health.