November 4, 2015 at 11:00am
Dane Lisser

Learning through Simulation

Students conducting nursing simulation

It's 11 a.m. on a Monday, and on the first floor of Millikin University's Leighty-Tabor Science Center, nine nursing students are attending to a patient who is showing symptoms of a stroke. The patient however is an iStan simulator, a high-tech mannequin used for health care instruction and training scenarios.

This particular lesson was just a small piece of the Senior Simulation Experience course taught at Millikin's School of Nursing. Building on content from previous nursing courses, the course connects theory to practice by providing students with simulation experiences to help build self-confidence and prepare for professional nursing practice.

"It's a synthesis course of all the things the students have learned and some things they maybe haven't experienced yet," said John Blakeman '13, lecturer in Millikin's School of Nursing.

Blakeman, along with Charlotte Bivens, Millikin instructor and coordinator of human simulation and nursing labs, worked together on designing the layout of the eight-week course.

"We focused on coming up with things that the students have never seen or done before in clinical," says Blakeman. "We want them to get used to talking to physicians, dealing with handoff reports, and working with an interdisciplinary team."

A Millikin faculty member since 2005, Charlotte Bivens had the idea of bringing a simulation course to the curriculum for some time. "We trialed the course last academic year and it went over very well. We've had excellent reviews and it's a course the students should feel good about in preparing them for the real world," said Bivens.


Students participate in nursing simulation


During the course, the nursing students are able to think through scenarios that could potentially be life-threatening for the patient.

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."


It's helping us transition from being students to practicing as registered nurses

Different topics are discussed each week, but at times, Blakeman and Bivens will surprise the students with new scenarios to keep the students on their toes and prepared for real-world situations.

"I think the students are gaining confidence by testing the waters and doing exactly what they think they need to do in higher-risk situations," said Blakeman. "It's great preparation for them as they transition into the role of a professional nurse."


Students participate in nursing simulation


Nursing students say they go into a different mindset when it comes to the simulation. "It's not the same, even if it is a simulation," says David Haines, a senior nursing major from Oreana, Ill. "The thought process is different and you have to figure out the problem as quickly as possible. It's a different world."

"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."

Espinoza says the team atmosphere has made a difference in terms of handling each simulation.

"As classmates, we help each other figure out if we are doing the right thing or not. I'm taking everything I've learned over the last couple of years in the School of Nursing and applying it in a different way. As a class, we've discussed and agreed that this course would be beneficial to have each semester."

Charlotte Bivens says debriefing the students is one of the important parts of the course. "At the end of each simulation we talk with the students about what they could've done differently or done better. It's important to tell them what they did well and how else they could've improved their performance."

Bivens noted, "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."