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Friday, January 7th, 2011 - 1:06 pm

Nursing students learn about complications, abnormalities in Simulation Lab

The School of Nursing’s Simulation Lab offers future nurses many opportunities not found in customary learning centers.

Previously, nursing students practiced basic skills on fellow classmates, such as listening to heart and lung sounds. But since most classmates generally are in good health, there was little opportunity to learn what abnormalities sounded like, or what other health situations can arise from those abnormalities before the students began their hospital clinical experiences.

4-bed, hands-on classroom

Technology found in the Simulation Lab has changed that. The four-bed, ‘hands-on’ classroom opened approximately one year ago.

Nursing Simulation Center
In the Simulation Lab, nursing students can practice assessment skills and anticipate situations they may experience while doing clinicals.

“Through this new technology, we are able to provide students, not only opportunities to practice assessment skills, but we also can create situations that students may not have the opportunity to experience when doing their clinicals,” Associate Professor of Nursing Kathy Nix said. “The lab also has videotaping equipment which allows students to critique their own performance at the bedside and determine what worked well and what needs improvement.”

The classroom/lab includes an ante room, complete with computer monitor and a two-way mirror. This is where a faculty member programs various medical scenarios for “patients” (computerized mannequins) resting in the four hospital beds located in the room behind the mirror. Students also can use the room for viewing and for debriefing after a scenario has been completed.

Stations include areas of Critical Care; Surgical-Medical; Labor and Delivery; and Pediatrics.

Abnormal activity programmed

One recent morning found 10 students listening to heart and lung sounds in the lab. Sounds of abnormal activity had been programmed for the make-believe patients, which prompted discussion among the students about appropriate response.

The students would be attending hospital “clinical” the next day, their first foray as nursing students into a real-life, hands-on medical facility. Purdue Calumet partners with area hospitals for this traditional part of the nursing curriculum.

Aided by Simulation Lab preparation, most of the students expressed a feeling of preparation for their first “clinical” experience, although there is never a guarantee of the type of situations they will face in the hospital.

“I’m pretty confident, but there’s still a little apprehension,” student Jason Gilliland of Valparaiso said. “But this (apprehension) is a good thing; it can help you stay focused.”

Clinical Assistant Professor Kelly Florek said these students had observed prior material through lectures and textbooks before visiting the Simulation Lab.

Transitioning to work world

“This (lab setting) is very exciting,” she said. “We can create experiences that may not be present in the clinical setting. The closer to reality we can make this lab, the easier it will be for students to transition to the work world.”

The Simulation Lab was designed and implemented by nursing faculty members Kathy Kleefisch, Cheryl Moredich and Nancy Daw. Visiting Assistant Professor Daw, who works in the Simulation Lab on a regular basis, also is employed at a Chicago hospital. She attempts to relate to her students the impact a simulation lab can make in life and death situations.

“We have a Simulated Lab in the Critical Care Unit where I work,” Daw said. “I feel we will be seeing more of these in many medical facilities as they become more affordable.”

When complications develop

In the lab’s Obstetrics area, students can observe and react to complications of a not-so-normal baby birth delivery, learning what to do, how protocol is handled, etc.

Senior Gennifer Biancardi of Highland is impressed with the Simulation Lab and feels time spent there is worthwhile.

“With this new technology, we are given the opportunity to experience different scenarios that happen in the ‘real world’,” she said. “And being prepared helps us to feel like confident professionals.”

– Sue Ellen Ross