College of Nursing opens new lab

Lynn Underwood, assistant professor of traditional nursing, teaches a Level 1 student in the new nursing simulation lab located in Stevens Hall last week.

by Ann Harkey Staff Writer

UNA recently opened a new medical training simulation lab for the nursing department in Stevens Hall.

A large classroom was remodeled to look exactly like a hospital, including hospital beds, equipment and medical supplies. The lab includes four new high-frequency Medical Education and Training Inc. simulators. The total cost for the remodel and the new simulators is estimated to be approximately $500,000, said Dr. Marilyn Lee, chair of the Department of Traditional Nursing.

Simulators resemble life-sized car-crash dummies. They are anatomically accurate in their weight and height. The four simulators include a unisex adult, an infant, a young child and a birthing mother. What makes these simulators different is their ability to react to what a nurse or doctor performs on them.

“The simulators can breathe, talk and have a pulse,” Lee said. “They can do everything a real person does except use their brain.”

She said students can check their blood pressure, start IVs and give them medication.

Before the simulation starts, students are assigned roles such as primary nurse or recorder, Lee said. There are normally four students to each simulation, but it can can include up to eight. The instructor gives the students a quick briefing on what is about to happen.

The instructor then enters the control room in the center of the simulation lab. From the control room, the instructor can see how the students perform. They also take on the voice roles of the patient, the 911 operator or another doctor. UNA’s simulation technician, Eric Homich, then starts the simulation.

Simulations are scenarios the students encounter and must perform accurately for the simulator to “survive.” Each simulator is pre-programmed with up to 100 simulations, such as burn scenarios or asthma attacks. If the students do not give the right medications, start IVs at the right time, treat wounds or diagnose properly, the simulator can “die” and the simulation is over. After the simulation, the instructor debriefs the students and gives them valuable information on what went right or wrong during the simulation, Lee said.

“Students actually transfer what they learn in simulations to actual bedside,” Lee said.

Simulations include prep work to provide the students with the most accurate hospital experience that can be provided.

“I talk with instructors a week before simulations to find out how the students are grouped,” Homich said.

The simulation is then picked, and Homich sets up the supplies that will be needed. He also primes the simulators with liquids, such as fake urine. He then makes the patient chart, lab results and other paperwork. If the simulator needs makeup, such as fake burnt skin called “molage,” he applies it.

The simulations are all pre-programmed, but Homich must be present to enter into the computer what medications the students give the simulator or when IVs are introduced, he said.

“The simulator will react like a real patient,” Homich said.

UNA professors said the new lab will be effective in providing students with experience.

“It’s a grand experience for students, “said Dr. Birdie Bailey, dean of the College of Nursing. “It provides as close to a real opportunity to participate in scenarios that they wouldn’t have experienced before.”

Bailey said the nursing students take the simulations seriously. She said some students can even take the simulations too seriously and need to be calmed down.

“It is one of the most accepted teaching methodologies in the United States,” she said. “It can be compared with astronauts using space simulations.”

UNA nursing students said they become immersed in the simulations.

“It’s easy to view these simulators as oversized mannequins or dolls,” said Hannah Gillman, a nursing student at UNA. “However, when one starts to go into cardiac arrest or experiences a postpartum hemorrhage, our training kicks in and these simulators become as real as you or I.”

Lee and Bailey hope the new lab will encourage students to apply for the new accelerated Bachelor of Science program. This program allows students with a previous bachelor’s degree in any field to acquire their BSN in 15 months.