November 12, 2015 4:11 PM

Millikin University's School of Nursing is providing opportunities for students to build self-confidence and prepare for professional nursing practice through its Senior Simulation Experience course.

The course is a new elective developed by instructor Charlotte Bivens, coordinator of the university's human simulation and nursing labs, and John Blakeman, a lecturer who will earn his master's degree in nursing this semester.

"The pace in health care is incredible and we're hoping to give the students one more tool that they can use to be better practitioners," said Bivens. "This class allows them to practice their critical thinking in a safe environment."

During the course, the nursing students are able to think through scenarios that could potentially be life-threatening for the patient. The patient however is an iStan simulator, a high-tech mannequin used for health care instruction and training situations.

The students also experience other simulation sessions such as practicing taking and implementing physician orders, prioritizing care, administering high-risk medications, initiating nursing care protocols, and attending to the psychosocial needs of the patient and family.

"Each week has a different focus," says Blakeman. "We start out by talking about the basics, such as the layout of the simulator room and working with the simulator, and then we progress from there."

The patients the students encountered over the course of the eight-week class represented a variety of ages and exhibited health problems often not experienced in clinical courses.

"The course has taught me a lot and I feel that my critical thinking has improved," said Christina Espinoza, a senior nursing major from Des Plaines, Ill. "It's helping us transition from being students to practicing as registered nurses."

Click here to view an article from the Herald & Review about the Nursing Simulation Experience course at Millikin.