State-of-the-Art Nursing Simulation Lab Provides Real World Experience

Students and Professor in Simulation LabIn its ongoing effort to provide state-of-the-art education, the School of Nursing has acquired a birthing simulator. The mannequin provides a lifelike point-of-care learning experience for the school’s undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Sacred Heart is the first school in Connecticut to use this innovative technology.

Nicknamed “Victoria,” the tetherless and wireless unit is part of a family of NOELLE maternal and neonatal care simulators designed and manufactured by Miami-based Gaumard Scientific. Housed in SHU’s Nursing Simulation & Clinical Skills laboratories, Victoria has an articulating endoskeleton and smooth elastomeric skin, and offers an authentic delivery and birthing mechanism with sophisticated monitoring capabilities. The system features comprehensive clinical scenarios, including shoulder dystocia and postpartum hemorrhage.

“The laboratories provide students the opportunity to learn and practice in a realistic and risk-free environment. These experiences offer invaluable opportunities to enrich and enhance learning as well as to increase student confidence, and Victoria will be an important component in that mission,” says Beth Boyd, director of Nursing Simulation & Clinical Skills at SHU. “Victoria has the capability of providing innovative and realistic experiences. We are eager to incorporate this latest technology into our School of Nursing curriculum and to provide interactive strategies and engaged learning for our students.”

One of the first students trained with Victoria was Theresa Bertolino, a junior nursing major from Hyde Park, Mass. “Sacred Heart’s goal is to make us as prepared as possible before we’re in a live setting with live patients, with real moms and real babies,” Bertolino says. “To have a mannequin that is realistic is a great resource, a great learning opportunity. I’ve worked on other simulators that weren’t as lifelike, but with Victoria you can do things like hold her hand and make more genuine contact—it gives a lot more opportunities for realistic scenarios.”

The additional, three-bed laboratory houses the most advanced computerized training system available, three nursing laboratories with 16 beds, and six ambulatory care exam tables.

Thanks to a $75,000 grant from the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority, the new laboratory is equipped with a high-tech SimMan 3G patient simulation system that includes a sophisticated, wireless manikin that instructors can program to exhibit specific behaviors and symptoms, as well as control how it responds to physical care and medications. Equipped with both a computer-based remote and voice control, the system is so advanced that it can control the manikin to realistically:

  • Display specific eye or pupil responses
  • Experience a spike or drop in blood pressure or pulse
  • Suffer seizures and convulsions
  • Physically react to the type, amount and administration of more than 100 drugs
  • Bleed
  • Experience a heart attack or other cardiac symptoms
  • Speak to caregivers
  • And more

Studies prove that when used in conjunction with classroom instruction and clinical experiences, simulation labs help produce safer, more efficient and more confident nurses.

“An increase in nursing students and decrease in community-based clinical training opportunities caused by staff shortages and patient confidentiality concerns make Sacred Heart’s simulation labs invaluable,” said Dr. Anne Barker, chair of the Nursing Department. “The best way to learn is from your mistakes. Simulations allow students to make mistakes without putting anyone in danger. And because they take place under faculty supervision, students receive feedback immediately, so they can learn from the experience.”

Newer students will use the manikin to practice basic skills like administering medications, treating wounds and monitoring blood pressure, breathing and other vital signs. More advanced students will use it to practice more advanced skills, such as responding to signs of a sudden stroke, internal bleeding or other emergencies.

In addition, the SimMan 3G high fidelity simulation system allows nursing students to experience caring for patients with multiple issues, giving them the opportunity to become skilled at establishing priorities, safely apply the concepts they’ve learned in the classroom and practice using therapeutic communication skills.

“Sacred Heart is always looking at its curriculum and facilities and asking ‘How can I improve? How can I make this great aspect of our program even better?’ This advanced patient simulator has really done that for nursing,” Barker said. “It takes our department to the next level, providing students with the kind of real-life practice and execution of clinical reasoning skills that they need to best react to patients out in the field.”