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Turning Simulations into Learning Experiences

The School of Nursing’s mannequins are no dummies.

June 08, 2017
A nursing practice dummy

They talk. They breathe. They bleed. But they are not alive.

They are high-fidelity mannequins used in the Center for Technology-Enhanced Nursing (CTEN), a cutting-edge simulation lab in Signe Skott Cooper Hall. The mannequins garner a lot of attention — and for good reason. These human-like interactive tools come as close as possible to being real patients, complete with detailed health histories documenting previous office visits, hospitalizations, and symptoms.

Lifelike simulations enable students to practice complex and less familiar situations, supplementing what they learn in their clinical experiences. They can safely test their knowledge while improving their skills and confidence.

“In clinicals, students get to shadow a nurse. Here they get to be a nurse.”
Laurie Pirtle ’89

Of course, the mannequins do not come programmed and ready to use right out of the box. For each simulation, someone has to create a case history. Another person has to program it into the mannequin. The details, such as symptoms and vital signs, are critical and need to support the simulation’s learning objectives in order to effectively guide students toward logical assessments and determinations. Anything arbitrary or incompatible with reality could undermine the experience.

Crafting an effective case can take Laurie Pirtle ’89, the School of Nursing’s simulation specialist, anywhere from one to two weeks.

But Pirtle cannot think of a better learning experience available to students.

“In clinicals, students get to shadow a nurse. Here they get to be a nurse,” she says. “As students, there is so much that they can’t do. Simulation gives them the opportunity to do it all.”

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