Nursing students utilize learning simulators

In 2008, Tech received $2,000,000 in federal funds to build a new facility for nursing majors. Out of the funds given, over half was spent on new, state of the art simulation labs. Simulation labs are the new and improved method of health care education. They are referred to as “simulation labs” because they do just that; they simulate the life of a living, breathing person.Dr. Sherry Gaines, director of the Winston-Hester School of Nursing, breaks down the process of this new method of learning.

“The labs are exactly like a real life hospital room,” she said. “They help the students to feel comfortable in an environment they aren’t used to.”

The labs are set up with dummies that have the capability of full human emotion.

“They can cry, breathe,” Gaines states, “anything we can do they can do.”

The lab owns multiple simulators, but there are three main ones. They have Noel, the pregnant woman simulator; a male simulator, who shall remain nameless; and a baby simulator.

The simulators alone cost from $2,000 to $4,000 each.

“Just to manage the labs gets very expensive,” Gaines said. “Keeping it up to date is what makes them useful.”

Along with all these expenses, an additional $700,000 was used for audio visual equipment. Since these labs are far beyond the financial boundaries of some universities, Gaines said that Tech’s lab has brought interest from multiple university about capabilities of using the labs for other schools.

The teachers in the Nursing Department were more than willing to share their thoughts on the simulators. Melissa Geist explained how she uses the simulators in her class.

“I develop a scenario in which they would face in a real hospital situation,” Geist said. “They use what they learn to practice on the simulators without the fear of using a real patient.”

She continued to say that even though simulation labs have been questioned in the health community on their real impact on the students, she believes that they are a great tool in confidence and practice for the students.

The simulators are programmed by the teachers who are trained to conduct a scenario the way they wish it to play out. The students must read the patient’s emotions and adapt to the patient’s needs.

“Some of these students have never been around babies in their lives, Gaines said. “Using the simulators gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with what they will face while on the job.”

Tech hopes to be able to participate in research as well as outreach to other labs.

Judy Davis, Another Nursing Department member, said, “It’s a safe place to make mistakes. It’s a safe place to learn.”

All of the women interviewed said that they truly feel using this tool will not only help students but Tech as a whole by graduating prepared and capable nurses.