There’s a big difference between nursing students in the classroom and practiced nurses in the field.
Nurses require both the skills they learn in a classroom and the knowledge gained from being in a hospital or practice.
Simulating these real-world experiences is a growing tool in medical education, particularly in nursing, and the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus has a new simulation lab for its nursing students.
“Simulation in education is not necessarily new, per se, but the technology for simulation has skyrocketed over the last five to 10 years,” said Katie Parrish, UNG director of simulation and assistant professor of nursing. “It’s been used for ages in medical schools and of course flight simulation, police training and military training.”
The sim lab follows the creation of a new cohort of nursing students on the Gainesville campus. The Dahlonega campus already had a four-year, Bachelor of Science in nursing program. The Gainesville campus previously had a two-year, associate degree program, which is now replaced with the BSN program.
“This opens up to more students being accepted, and just the locality,” Parrish said. “We’ve got quite a health care city here.”
Parrish called simulation “high fidelity,” or having a degree of exactness. The new “sim lab” is modeled to resemble a real, state-of-the-art hospital, with a nurses station, a pediatric room, a standard medical room and a larger room for intensive care.
Each room is modeled to look like a genuine hospital room, with glove boxes and a sink in the corner and a different type of bed in each room. The pediatric unit has a “pediatric crib stretcher,” Parrish said.
“So we can transport them throughout the hospital, or it can be in the room during training,” she said.
The lab also has a space modeled to look like a small home or apartment, for students to practice home care.
The new cohort of nursing students will also study in the new TEAL classroom, which stands for “technology-enabled active learning.” The room features 10 giant touch-screen monitors on all four walls, and students will sit at round tables in the center.
These students should have the perfect balance of state-of-the-art classroom and lab facilities, Parrish said.
The sim lab gives students a chance to try their hand at nursing in a way they can’t during their clinical rotations.
“It’s hard sometimes to get into that clinical setting,” Parrish said. “But this provides anything that we think they need to see first.”
In a clinical setting, if a patient “codes,” or stops breathing, nursing students are going to typically be “pushed to the wall” while medical professionals save the life of the patient.
In the sim lab, the students can practice saving a life.
“Setting up a simulated code, they become the practitioners, the nurses making the decisions, doing the skills, giving CPR, calling the code, all those things,” Parrish said.
The lab will be equipped with brand-new mannequins that can do everything from sweating and bleeding to giving birth.
“They are extremely lifelike, to the point that their pupils respond to light,” Parrish said.
All of these new facilities, including the sim lab and the TEAL classroom, are located in the continuing education building on the Gainesville campus.
Students return to class Monday at UNG, and the new nursing students had orientation Thursday. Parrish said she’s excited for them to start and to see all the ways students can benefit from the new facility.
“What I have seen firsthand is when that lightbulb happens,” Parrish said. “What they’ve read in a book or heard in a lecture and seen in clinical, they do in the sim lab. It’s unbelievable. It’s a culmination of all the senses, all the knowledge, the skills, judgment and thinking comes together at one time, and it is really cool to watch.”