Simulation training is a key tool used in nursing schools around the world. A simulated hospital or emergency room environment allows nursing students to learn real-world skills in a manner that closely reflects what they will encounter during the course of their careers. As with all simulations, it’s impossible to accurately depict or rehearse every possible scenario within the confines of a laboratory setting. However, nursing schools and technology companies are working toward advancements that are closing the gaps between simulation and real-world experience.
How much simulations help with nurse training is one of little debate: It is simply better to allow students the chance to make decisions that could lead to mistakes in a safe environment. Some actions taken in a real situation can cause great harm to patients and staff. To better explain how simulations work, we look to some of the most recent innovations in nursing school simulators.
Nursing schools are now able to train students on how to handle these situations, while putting students into a simulated situation with a “real” patient. Patient simulators allow students to really experience the sights, sounds, and sensations of working with difficult patients and traumatic injuries. While textbook and scenario studies of Alzheimer’s patients and those with psychological disorders can be enlightening, this mode of education leaves a sensational gap between the information the students learn and what it’s really like to treat a patient in these situations.
Imagine a patient that is in a manic phase of his bipolar disorder and in shock due to a significant injury. As is common with this condition, the patient may behave in a way that makes little sense when compared to the gravity of their health situation. A patient simulator – a mannequin which moves, talks, and reacts to the student – provides the unique opportunity to practice health management with such a patient.
As an example, the Associated Press recently published a story about Andrea, a patient simulator at the College of New Jersey. Andrea tells students that she wants to leave – immediately – and is quite insistent on doing so. With the help of an instructor, students can learn how to manage this type of patient response by understanding why Andrea reacts this way and how to calm her down. In doing so, students are better equipped to deal with this situation in real life because they’ve already experienced many of the emotions they will feel.
A full-scale simulation lab is expensive, but top nursing schools around the world see that the investment is well worth the gains when graduation and job placement rates improve. Some colleges pay millions for state-of-the-art trauma center simulators and specialty care patient simulators.
It doesn’t take a multi-million dollar simulation lab for nursing schools to take advantage of simulation training, however. Patient simulators can be purchased individually and programmed to exhibit a variety of conditions, ailments, and personality types. Mannequins are portable technology that allows even the most moderately funded nursing schools the opportunity to work with the latest simulation software programs available.