Future nurses in training at Central Lakes College are now benefiting from patient case scenarios that simulate reality.
Using new technology such as mannequins, computer stations, nursing software, and five donated beds from St. Joseph's Medical Center, tomorrow's nurse practitioner today participates a clinical experience in a safe, structured environment.
Then that student enters the working medical environment confidently prepared for the plethora of daily challenges confronting the bedside nurse.
The St. Joseph's Medical Center Foundation awarded the CLC nursing program a $4,681 grant last spring to further the college's mission of learning opportunities that lead to employment, specifically in nursing. The funds were part of the first major technological upgrade in several years, an initiative driven by a growing need for more competent healthcare workers across the region.
Hospitals, care centers and clinics share in the initiative directly affecting their communities. The level of local support and extent to which the college administration is financially able to devote resources are tantamount to the success of the expanded nursing program.
Students and instructors recently underwent a training exercise demonstrating one of the most effective tools in nursing education -- Sim Man. While the college has five adult mannequins in its labs, none match the life-like features of this one.
CLC has allocated funds to purchase Sim Man this academic year. The price is around $29,000, according to Rebecca Best, an associate vice president of academic affairs.
"We are committed to the continued development of our nursing simulation lab," she said. "The goal is to provide high-quality lab experiences for our PN and RN students, using state-of-the-art simulation equipment.
"The use of simulation equipment provides students with an expanded opportunity for hands-on practice of a variety of critical procedures and techniques," Best said. "The simulation lab provides a safe, controlled environment for students to learn essential skills."
Sim Man, with voice and other human-related sound effects, offers functions that include breathing, pulse, blood pressure, and other vital signs that can be part of a realistic medical scenario -- including life-threatening emergencies.
A scenario puts the student nurse in charge of monitoring and assessing patient status, requiring tasks that include intravenous fluid and drug applications. Quickly, the scene can switch to Code Blue, as Sim Man stops breathing and the stunned student reacts to a critical situation.
The nursing lab has now become a hospital room, and professional protocol transports the student into a fluid mode that is much different than tending to separate tasks. Don't tell this nurse it's only a dry run.
"It's not a game, not a toy," said Vicki Monson of Crosby, one of the first to get a dose of Sim Man trauma. "This is a real-life scenario. I liked it and want to do more of it."
She learned without anyone getting hurt. The mannequin-patient known as Mr. Jones gave Monson a dose of reality she appreciated. Viewing a videotape of the scenario during a debriefing, she cited a new set of actions. "I learned. Next time I would do some things differently."
"You don't have to know everything," said Darci Goeden, nursing instructor and grant writer for the SJMC Foundation donation. "But you learn what the expectations are in a safe environment. You develop critical thinking skills, communication skills and how to be a team member."
Goeden thanked the Brainerd hospital for its continued contributions to the nursing program. "We are able to obtain a lot of lab supplies used for nursing skills, because of these donations from St. Joe's," she said.
Using donated and purchased equipment and supplies, instructors create the most demanding health-care moments for their students, moments that require the greatest expertise. "It is the best possible practice," said instructor Linda Anderson. "When we do these mock drills, practicing Code Pink or Code Blue, the student is being prepared, gaining confidence, not backing down."
Reviewing a scenario video enables each student to improve and grow toward the graduation goal that includes high standards and competencies synchronized with the needs of the healthcare industry that serves the patient first.
In the nursing program at CLC, they're looking forward to a permanent patient, Sim Man, so the college can continue to serve the student first.
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