- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - The “hospital room” was full of Illinois Wesleyan University nursing students attempting to deal with a teenager who had overdosed on pills and liquor, his upset ex-girlfriend and his angry mother.

The chaos was intentional.

The students, all juniors in the simulation lab for the first time, are in a psychiatric and mental health course.

“That’s why we create the chaos - to see if they can meet the family needs at the same time they meet the patient’s needs,” explained Vicki Folse, professor and Caroline F. Rupert chair of nursing.

The students no longer could glance at instructors or staff in the room to see if they were on the right track.



In the lab, which opened this fall, the professor and person running the simulation are in a control room with one-way glass. All students see is a mirror.

“What I’m doing now is completely cloaked,” said simulation specialist Becky Altic.

She runs the computer that’s connected to the mannequins used in the simulation and monitors that show their vital signs. She also provides the voice of the “patient.”

In the past, Altic was in the same room with the students as she typed commands into her computer.

“It’s distracting,” she said, and also could tip students that something was about to change.

Instead, as in real life, the only clue students in this simulation got was the patient saying, “I don’t feel good,” before he started to vomit.

Susan Swanlund, associate professor of nursing, said, “The new lab really puts the student in a realistic situation. It allows them to practice life-saving skills.”

Senior Colin Barr of Kankakee has experienced both the old and the new simulation lab.

He said, “Your attention is more patient-focused” and communications skills among nursing students have improved because more are directly involved in the simulation.

Senior Emily Johnson, a nursing major from Flossmoor, agreed, saying, “It’s a lot more collaborative” and that students “feel more independent” without a staff member in the room.

In planning for the new lab, Folse said, “We researched state-of-the-art simulation labs to determine what we needed for our students.”

One addition is an apartment setting dedicated to community health.

“Home healthcare is going to be on the rise,” Altic said. “They need to know how to operate in that setting.”

In a home healthcare appointment, nurses not only evaluate the patient but also the environment, looking for tripping hazards or other health risks, she said.

The mannequins are quite sophisticated - and not cheap. The one used in the drug overdose scenario cost about $100,000, Folse said. Its chest rises and falls as it “breathes” and it has a “pulse” at several locations.

The skin offer realistic resistance as students give injections, start IVs or perform similar procedures. The mannequins also make heart, lung and bowel sounds.

In developing scenarios, Altic and the professors look for very serious or very rare occurrences that students might not see in their clinical assignments.

Folse said the scenarios are designed to match the level of complexity with the students’ level of knowledge.

Mistakes are made, but “that’s exactly what the simulations are for,” Folse said. Detailed debriefings follow each scenario, so students learn from their mistakes.

“It gives them a very intense view that their actions have consequences,” Altic said.

The challenge for Altic is to anticipate what students will do so the mannequin will respond appropriately, including verbal responses.

It’s all about enhancing the students’ ability to think critically, Folse said.

“I really enjoy it. … It’s a creative outlet,” Altic said. “It’s also fulfilling to see the students come in as novices, then pull it together.”

Altic said she tells students, “Nursing is a snowball and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. You don’t let it melt until you retire.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, https://bit.ly/1uTZN1V

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Information from: The Pantagraph, https://www.pantagraph.com

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