The Simulation Lab: A Perfect Environment for Training

An affiliation agreement with MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot allows for hands-on training and gives students opportunities to work on nursing skills.

<em>Baby mannequin "Sam" is used for pediatric instruction.</em> Baby mannequin "Sam" is used for pediatric instruction.

“Sam” and “Jack” rest comfortably on their hospital beds in the simulation lab at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot, waiting for their next opportunity to interact with the students in Alma College’s nursing program.

On some days, the two “patients” require a full head-to-toe physical assessment to determine the state of their health. On other days, they are in need of an IV, injection, respiratory care or even a wound dressing.

They are high-fidelity mannequins that breathe, blink, have a pulse and react to controlled manipulation to simulate real-life symptoms and conditions. They are the instruments that provide live-patient simulations that Alma’s nursing students will see in real life.

“Simulation environments enable our students to experience and practice the different skills nurses need,” says Judy McKenna, director of nursing education at Alma College. “Students really enjoy the lab. Many times they say they learn from each other, not just the faculty. Through simulation, students can adjust, re-think, assess, figure out how to respond and self-reflect.”

Making Nursing Real

Alma College has an affiliation agreement with the Alma hospital for use of the simulation laboratory for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The lab allows for hands-on training and gives students an opportunity to work on skills, such as starting injections or IVs.

<em>Students start simulation training in the winter semester of their first-year at Alma.</em> Students start simulation training in the winter semester of their first-year at Alma.“Sam” is the high-fidelity baby mannequin used for pediatric instruction, while “Jack” is the adult used in the majority of the nursing classes. Nursing students are able to listen to heart and lungs and measure vitals. The mannequins can be manipulated from a control room to provide different situations for the students — even situations that would be considered life-threatening for a human patient.

“To have our BSN simulation program at the hospital — it makes nursing real for our students,” says McKenna. “They see the nurses and the professionalism required when working with patients and colleagues. It’s a perfect environment for training and instruction.

“The simulation lab helps promote the program for prospective students to have an idea of what we do here,” she says. “In our program, students start simulation in the winter semester of their freshman year.”

Seeing Beyond Patient Care

Being able to practice in the simulation lab gives students the hands-on experience and confidence to take their skills to the clinical floor and perform care properly and efficiently on real patients, says Gabrielle Fazio, a recent nursing graduate who accepted a position at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.

“The OB simulation lab helped me learn and practice the skills needed to assist in the delivery process,” she says. “In the simulation lab, we had to practice actually delivering a baby, which is technically out of the scope of my practice, but could very well be a skill I may need to know in an emergency situation.”

Recent graduate Jacob Lambrecht works as a resident care specialist at Arbor Grove Assisted Living.

“Practicing CPR in the simulation lab was a valuable experience because the mannequins are high fidelity, which means we can gauge the depth and location of compressions,” says Lambrecht. “Essentially it allows us to see how we are performing CPR or assessing a pulse.

“The nursing degree helps prepare students to be critical thinkers because the liberal arts classes like ethics and medicine or health care administration help future nurses see issues beyond patient care more clearly, which is why I would encourage students to get a BSN from Alma,” says Lambrecht.

Story published on June 14, 2017