Nursing simulation labs teach real-world skills
Patients are lying in hospital beds. One is about to give birth; another is breathing through a tracheotomy tube; and yet another has a bleeding head wound and intravenous lines in his arms. Nurses carefully tend to the patients — talking with them, assessing their conditions and moving into action when one of them suddenly worsens.
The scene, reminiscent of a hospital, is actually a large classroom designed to mimic a hospital setting. The patients are computerized lifelike manikins of men, women, children and infants. The nurses are BSN students at University of Phoenix.
Welcome to the Nursing Simulation Center (NSC) at the Phoenix Main Campus. It’s the newest of the school’s labs, joining those located at the Modesto Learning Center in California, and at the Colorado and Hawaii Campuses. Created to supplement the clinical experiences with a safe place to practice nursing skills, the Immersive Patient Care Management simulation program is on the leading edge of rapidly evolving nursing education.
“Simulations are very intensive training,” says Dana Smith, MSN, program manager of the NSC. “Eight hours of simulation are like 12 clinical hours on the floor.”
Carefully crafted 12-minute scenarios provide progressively complex patient care experiences. The scenarios are designed to develop students’ nursing competencies, as well as build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they’ll need on the hospital floor — skills that are emphasized in the degree program’s rigorous curriculum.
Faculty nurse educators guide the scenario experience from a control room where they can adjust the manikin patient’s physical and verbal responses for realistic reactions to students’ interventions and care. Without prior knowledge of the scenario or the patient’s needs, students must quickly assess the key issues, then plan and deliver coordinated care.
Scenarios are videotaped and viewed via a live feed with a small group of students. Afterward, videos are replayed during a debriefing session in which everyone discusses what decisions were made and why, and what could have been done better.
Smith says the scenarios are effective ways to “train students to be proactive, not reactive.” This also gives students exposure to situations that may not occur during their real-life clinicals, making them better prepared to handle the unexpected. "The intent of the simulation lab is for students to learn patient care without being fearful," Smith says. "They learn while doing and while observing others."