High-fidelity simulators, computerized mannequins that can be programmed to present a variety of health problems, are key to clinical training. "Prior to simulators, nursing students had to rely on events that happened in settings like clinics and hospitals with real patients," said Professor of Nursing Karen Johnson Brennan. "Simulation scenarios allow us to provide all students with robust clinical experiences that they may not have the opportunity to encounter in their 'real' clinical rotation."
During a recent simulation exercise, graduate students Bethany Goad, Suzanne Ezrre and Jessica Zucca responded to a crying infant who had experienced a febrile seizure at home. A monitoring screen above the bed reported the infant's vital signs. In another part of the TLC classroom, computer technician Ed Rovera programmed the infant mannequin's vital signs, symptoms and behavior. After the nursing students administered fluids intravenously in the infant mannequin's arm, it began to cry and its heart rate rose.
The students considered several possible causes for the sudden change in the infant's vital signs and behavior. They discovered that the bandage wrapped around a splint that held the intravenous needle in place was too tight and after loosening it, the infant's crying stopped and its pulse decreased to a normal range.
Prior to the exercise Goad, Zucca and Ezzre had never practiced with computer-controlled simulators.
"I had worked only on traditional mannequins that had no interactive qualities," said Ezrre. "I was impressed by the variety of states the high fidelity simulator presented -- from cooing contentment to crying, to a persistent state of seizure activity."
Zucca and Goad thought it would be difficult to pretend that the infant mannequin was real. "But it was surprising how realistic all the vital signs were," said Goad.
Ezrre, Goad and Zucca all plan to specialize in pediatrics.
Girouard noted that the TLC is designed to be a place where caring and technology co-exist. "The newest generation of nursing students is tech savvy," she said. "They expect a high-tech approach to their education."
The patient simulator technology, which has existed for about 10 years, continually advances in sophistication. The School of Nursing is pursuing more funding to keep up with the advancements, access more equipment and make further improvements to the classrooms. "It's an exciting time to be engaged in nursing," said Girouard. "Today the stakes for patients are very high and the role of nurses in safety and quality of care is critical. We have an ethical and social obligation to prepare the best possible nurses."