Nursing Simulation Labs Come to Regional Centers

by April Overholt '11

With the addition of human patient simulation at the San Diego, Inland Empire, and High Desert Regional Centers, APU's nursing programs are leading the way in the future of nursing education.

Human patient simulation provides interactive, life-sized mannequins that replicate real human functions, allowing nursing students to gain experience before they work in a hospital setting. Students put their classroom learning into action while dealing with the psychosocial elements of nurse-patient interaction. They are able to experiment on the simulator before implementing their ideas and theories on a human patient. Then students watch a recording of the session in order to better understand what they did right and what needs to be fixed.

“I have made a lot of mistakes in the simulation laboratory,” said nursing major Chun Chow. “Looking back at my performance, I would probably react to the scenarios very differently today than I did six months ago. I am glad that all my mistakes happened to a human patient simulator and not to one of my patients in the hospital.”

Additionally, students are allowed a greater sense of freedom and responsibility in the simulation lab. “When beginning-level nursing students get on the hospital floor, there’s a lot of restriction to what they can do,” said Tori Newby, instructor and simulation technician at the San Diego Regional Center. “In the simulation, though, they are the nurses. No one is holding their hands, showing them what to do. They start gaining confidence in their skills, which they wouldn’t get from the floor.”

Faculty are embracing the simulation as a key component for teaching real-world skills. “Professors prefer to teach hands-on now that they’ve seen the simulation, as opposed to relying on students being able to just spit back out the information they’ve learned,” said Newby. “Now the teachers can say, ‘Yes, good answer. Now prove it.’”

Working in the labs also helps students practice teamwork. Groups of four or five students experience a simulation together.

“Patient simulation has taught me how to work in a team to take care of a patient,” said nursing student Aaron Quach. “Communication is such an important skill and it is emphasized in the human patient simulation. I have learned to communicate better.”

The simulation lab gives APU students the advantage of experiencing what it’s like in specific specialties—such as labor and delivery or pediatrics—which they may not have had during clinicals. This will help them after graduation as they decide which field of nursing they would like to enter.

“A university that has a simulation lab gives students a level of critical thinking that a nonsimulation university may not be able to provide,” said Newby. “It will allow future nurses to figure out a little earlier which specialty they want to pursue, and they can immediately go into their master’s or doctoral programs.”

Each simulation scenario also includes a spiritual component. For instance, the mannequins can be programmed to speak, and they may ask questions such as, “Why is God letting this happen to me?” Students are challenged to respond to these questions that a struggling human patient may actually ask, and figure out how to comfort them.

“Simulation brings forth nurses that have the mindset, heart, and drive to be the nurses who you would want taking care of your family,” said Newby. “It is a tool that allows APU to create nurses who not only are skilled, but who also understand their spirituality and what it really means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Currently, the Azusa campus is preparing for the implementation of a six-bed simulation lab with three adult mannequins, one obstetrics birthing mannequin, one pediatric mannequin, and one infant mannequin.

Read more about human patient simulation at APU.