Nurses gain confidence in labs

Senior nursing majors Lauren Klyce (left) and Linda Propst care for a simulation patient during a lab. The patient was experiencing chest pains and the students took the steps needed to relieve the pain and determine its cause. | Photo by Deanna Santangelo

By Jordan Norton

The newest edition on campus, Providence Hall, has brought not only the School of Pharmacy its own space but has also allowed for expansion of simulation labs in the School of Nursing.

When the first simulation lab was established in 2006, nursing students never imagined simulators would be a vital part to their success in the program. Even then, the one simulation machine brought better understanding for the future.

When White Hall was built in 2007, a 1,500-square-foot lab was installed with the sole purpose of simulation. This lab created space for five new simulators. It was becoming evident that simulation was the future for not only the School of Nursing, but also the School of Pharmacy.

What was once a one-room experiment has turned into a 19,000-square-foot facility, including a classroom capable of holding 70 students, 10 patient rooms and one operating room. The rooms are filled with nine simulators that offer training for newborn care, infant care, school-age child care and adult medical and surgical care.

“The labs are performed exactly to how things are performed in the hospital—from the actual medical equipment to the clothing of the students and patients, and even fake blood is used to make it feel as normal as possible for the students,” said Joy Thomason, director of undergraduate nursing education.

Cherish Cooper, senior nursing major, said, “All the simulators are so real to life, they have pulses and they even blink. The entire simulation lab is realistic and high-tech.”

Senior nursing majors Caitlin Clinger and Casey Balthazar both agree the simulation experience is intense and sometimes even more stressful than working with real patients. At  the same time, though, it makes students more confident when working in an actual hospital.

“With the increase in space, we are able to get the students integrated in the simulation experience sooner,” Thomason said. “This has been extremely beneficial for them to capture their knowledge and become more confident faster.”

During the beginning of lab, students work in groups of three or four, but as they continue along in the lab the number is reduced to two. It begins with a 30 to 45 minute prep-work time, where the students have a chance to review the patient’s report, followed by a two-hour, hands-on experience in the lab. Afterwards, they have a chance to watch video footage of their time in the lab, summarize their experience and take away a better understanding of the  patient-care process.

“This is a great opportunity to talk with the students and review so they can learn what they did well and what they can work on,” Thomason said. “I just think the lab is a phenomenal teaching tool I hope will make each nurse that comes through this program someone that will incorporate not only the physical needs, but also the emotional and spiritual needs of each individual they touch. That’s our goal here, and I believe we’re achieving that goal.”

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