Lab simulates real-life
situations for nursing students

By Curt Yeomans


Noelle is giving birth to Robot Baby in one bed.

SimMan is lying in an adjacent bed, IV tubes hooked up to his arm, and he's complaining that he doesn't feel well.

SimKid looks like he is asleep in another bed.

SimBabies are lying in incubators, being examined by nursing students.

They are all simulation-doll "patients" in Clayton State University's Simulation Lab, where nursing students get opportunities to offer medical care in a secure environment, while also learning how to deal with family members, who may hamper efforts to provide emergency medical care.

The lab opened this spring, when the School of Nursing moved to the university's Harry S. Downs Center for Continuing Education.

"We can put students in those rare situations, such as a patient going into cardiac arrest," said Susan A. Walsh, an assistant professor of Nursing at the university. "Not only do they have to know what to do to help their patient, but they also have to know what to do with other people, such as a relative, who may be coming to the hospital with the patient."

The School of Nursing is currently seeking props, ranging from native outfits from foreign cultures, to wigs which can make a person look like a grandmother, or give him or her dreadlocks. The props will be used to enhance the scenarios which play out in the Simulation Lab, where some students offer medical care to a simulation doll, while others act as family members.

When students act out a scenario, a professor sits at a computer, located behind a two-way mirror, and creates medical situations for the students to handle without any notice.

SimMan could begin to vomit on a student, or SimBaby could begin to bleed profusely and get diarrhea. Noelle can give birth to a baby. All of the simulated patients can also die while a student is working to resolve the medical issue.

Another group of students watches from afar while the whole ordeal is recorded by a camera in the ceiling. A DVD is made of the scenarios and the students can either watch it on their own, or with the professor, who critiques the actions of the students.

Lisa Eichelberger, dean of the School of Nursing, said a hypothetical scenario which would teach nursing students how to deal with various religious beliefs, would include students dressed in traditional Muslim garments, who "want to stand around the injured person's bed and pray while the person is literally dying."

"What I'd be interested in getting is some biker outfits, so we could have Noelle be in a family of bikers. The husband could say, 'Hey this isn't my scene, I'm outta here' and the students would have to learn how to deal with that type of situation."

Anyone who wants to donate props for the Simulation Lab can contact the School of Nursing at (678) 466-4900.