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Bill Thienes pledges additional $30,000 to Blinn nursing programs for virtual-reality training

Software and devices are a valuable tool in training nursing professionals

Software and devices are a valuable tool in training nursing professionals

March 3, 2023

With her classmates looking on, Blinn College District Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) student Hannah Brockett evaluated her patient’s deteriorating vital signs. Wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset instead of surgical gloves, Brockett became one of the first students to use Blinn’s new VR healthcare simulation program.

“I feel like this technology will help because you are able to react off of the decline or improvement of the patient with someone responding back to you,” said Brockett. “It felt more realistic than the mannequins and is another resource to get more people trained and have more time to practice our skills.”

Made possible through a donation from Bill Thienes of Brenham, the VR technology is an exciting new training tool that allows ADN and vocational nursing students to practice scenarios and receive instant feedback. The equipment complements Blinn’s existing simulation programs, which include high-fidelity simulators and complex case scenarios. Thienes recently visited Blinn at Texas A&M-RELLIS to see the technology in action and was so impressed by the students’ reaction he pledged an additional $30,000 gift to expand the program.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to see the students so excited. I think what impresses me most about this technology is how enthusiastic everybody is,” Thienes said.

In addition to his gifts in support of Blinn’s nursing programs, Thienes, a retired petroleum engineer, previously established two endowed scholarships through the Blinn College Foundation.

“The Blinn College Foundation is grateful for the ongoing support Mr. Thienes has shown for the College and our students,” Blinn College Foundation Chair Nancy Berry said. “His commitment to education and unwavering generosity will benefit and enhance the lives of current and future Blinn students for years to come.”

Dr. Karla Ross, ADN Program Director, believes VR technology is a valuable addition to Blinn’s nursing curriculum that will allow students to collaborate and master specific skills.

“With the unmet demand for registered nurses in Texas projected to increase to 16.3% by 2032, Blinn is working diligently to address this shortage by creating new ways for students to gain the simulation and clinical experience they need,” Ross said. “Mr. Thienes’s continued support allows us to purchase additional VR headsets that enhance our simulation exercises, supplying even more students with high-fidelity scenarios and interactive learning opportunities, just like in real life. Not only will we be training more nurses, but they will be more confident and experienced when they enter the workforce.”

Blinn purchased 10 VR headsets and the Oxford Medical Simulation software with the original gift from Thienes. His additional pledge allows the College to more than double the number of headsets available for students to check out, similar to a library book, and practice their skills on their own time.

“This technology is a resource for our vocational nursing students in Brenham that provides a new, active learning environment for them to enhance their critical-thinking skills and promote their clinical judgment,” Vocational Nursing Program Director Dr. Michelle Marburger said. “Having a new way to expose students to a hospital setting, either virtually or in person, is vital to helping our students become confident healthcare professions.”

Blinn offers a number of nursing career options, including Certified Nurse Aide , Vocational Nursing, and Associate Degree Nursing. Current vocational nurses and paramedics also can earn their associate degree and a variety of transfer opportunities provide associate degree graduates with a pathway to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and beyond.

For more information about Blinn’s nursing programs, visit

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