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Nicole SzallaNicole Szalla, DNP, RN, CMSRN, CHSE

Director, RISE Center
Robert Morris University


Dr. Szalla is a Pittsburgh native and United States Navy Veteran. She began her Nursing career in 2006 after completing her enlistment obligations where she served as an undesignated seaman and dental assistant within the United States and abroad from 1997-2003. After a short hiatus and receiving her Nursing Degree, Dr. Szalla rejoined the US Navy in 2010 as a Naval Officer in the Nurse Corps, and in totality has served our country honorably and meritoriously for 11 years. Dr. Szalla has developed clinical expertise in medical surgical nursing (CMSRN), and health care simulation (CHSE) attaining certification in both of these areas. Her clinical practice centers on adult populations, women’s health, breastfeeding promotion, and home health care. Her scholarly interests are related to working interdisciplinary with colleagues, focused on serving vulnerable populations, students, and the Nursing profession. Dr. Szalla is passionate about coaching Nurses through difficulties with interprofessional relationships and her Doctoral work at Duquesne University centered around mitigating acts of incivility and bullying in the workplace.

“I love simulation learning, and when simulation is done well, participants walk away with an experience that stays with them forever. We take this very seriously and pride ourselves on creating experiences that provide opportunities for personal growth, self-reflection and creation of positive learning scars”.

Expertise: Multidimensional interdisciplinary healthcare simulation, Workplace incivility and bullying mitigation using cognitive rehearsal, Medical surgical nursing, Maternal health nursing, Leadership, Quality and safety and Professional Development.


Jeffrey B. MorganJeffrey Morgan, MBA

Simulation Operations Specialist
Robert Morris University

Jeff joined RMU in 2021, bringing with him a career of leadership experience in creating high technology, high reliability manufacturing operations. He is a proven leader with over thirty years of increasing responsibility in high technology, high reliability, advanced manufacturing and service operations. Jeff is results oriented, has solid business acumen, and takes a hands-on approach to maximizing resources, reducing expenses, and developing and implementing new methodologies which have consistently and substantially improved corporate profit margins throughout his career. He has held numerous senior level management positions with responsibilities for manufacturing operations, supply chain management, quality systems, and manufacturing engineering. Jeff holds an MBA degree with a concentration in International Business from Point Park University and graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business. He also has an undergraduate degree in Management & Technologies and has studied Supply Chain Strategy & Management at MIT, Sloan School of Management.


Kara WhitehillKara Whitehill, MSN, RN, CPN, CCRN, CNE

Simulation Education Specialist & BLS/PEARS Coordinator
Robert Morris University

Kara is a nurse originally from Maryland who is passionate about educating and mentoring the next generation of nurses. She is a pediatric bedside nurse with a background in both critical care and acute care and sees pediatric patients of all ages and specialties after procedures in the recovery room. She is a basic life support (BLS), Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) instructor. Most of her nursing experience has been with patients with congenital heart disease. She is very passionate about this field and has volunteered in a developing country implementing a cardiac surgery program and as a camp nurse for this population.

Kara has been a nurse educator both at the hospital level training new nurses in a pediatric cardiac intensive care unit and at the university level. She has held pediatric clinical instructor positions for Catholic University of America, University of Pittsburgh, and Duquesne University. She has facilitated simulation for nursing students at Robert Morris University and now coordinates and teaches BLS and PEARS courses for RMU students and members of the community. She has a special interest in simulation both at the hospital and university level and is a member of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. Some of the work she is most proud of includes electronic medical record enhancements easing access to education resources for nurses discharging complex patients, a multidisciplinary quality improvement project reducing cardiac arrests, and easing the transition to practice for the new graduate nurse through a robust orientation program including simulation.

Key professional areas of interest: patient and family education, pediatric congenital heart disease, novice nurse transition to practice, multidisciplinary quality improvement, nurse to nurse mentoring, simulation, interprofessional collaboration and communication.


Kristen LutzKristen Lutz, MSN, RN, CEN, PCCN-K

Simulation Education Specialist
Robert Morris University

Kristen is originally from Hollidaysburg, PA but she began her nursing career in Pittsburgh after graduating from Robert Morris University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2015. Kristen has worked clinically in the emergency department and also led clinical groups in the intensive care unit. After obtaining her MSN in Nursing Education, Kristen worked under the title of Clinical Education Specialist (CES) as a unit-based nurse educator for 2 cardiac stepdown units. She provided new hire support and education through simulation and hands-on training while contributing to other nursing education programs and professional development. She has developed clinical expertise in emergency nursing (CEN) and progressive care nursing (PCCN-K) attaining certification in both of these areas. Kristen is also a Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) instructor. Kristen has found a passion for mentoring and educating newer nurses as they begin to enter the clinical setting. She has seen the immense impact simulation can have on nursing practice and continues to advocate for experiential learning for our next generation of nurses.


Kaitlin SlaneyKaitlin Slaney

RMU RISE Center Standardized Patient Coordinator
Robert Morris University

Kaitlin Slaney is no stranger to the world of Standardized Patients. She graduated in 2010 from California University of Pennsylvania with a BA major in Theatre and a concentration in Dance and Musical Theatre. This is where she was introduced to the work as an actor in role-play for the Social Work Department's education and for the local Police Department's training. Kaitlin moved to Columbus, OH to pursue her acting career, and resided out there for 10 years both working in the acting community and the standardized patient community. Her extensive background in this field includes work from all over the country; Ohio State University, the University of Kentucky, New York University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Minnesota, Professional Communication Simulators, and right here at Robert Morris University.

"I have watched this work grow to what it is now since 2009. I have worked with universities, hospitals, fire departments, police departments, etc. We are living in a world where front-line workers want and feel the need to practice their communication skills. Connecting, listening, and sharing empathy with people is so supportive and important, and I am so thrilled to be a part of the Rise Center team here at Robert Morris University so we can keep those communication skills growing."

Kaitlin is not just a Standardized Patient and an actress, but she is also a theatre educator, private acting/ audition coach, and a small business 'upcycler'! She has been teaching theatre for 6+ years and has found a home to teach at Pittsburgh CLO Academy where she directs summer camp productions, educates in classroom settings at the academy, and coaches privately. As far as her 'upcycling'; business, back in 2019, she started making all kinds of wearable and repurposed creations using clothing material. She calls this small business Braid Away! Kaitlin lives for the creative!


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Click Here to register for RISE Center courses using our calendar system.  If you need to cancel a class you have registered for please send an email to Jeff Morgan morganj@rmu.edu.