Life-threatening emergencies are a very common occurrence in hospitals, but the outcome is not always this positive.
At the UF College of Nursing, students integrate specific skills learned in class into high-fidelity simulations, as well as role playing and computer-supported activities in lab. Students provide care in numerous specialty situations, such as prenatal, postpartum, mental health, pediatrics and end of life. Students are also exposed to interprofessional simulations focused on medication safety, where they work alongside medical and pharmacy students.
Simulation was first recognized as a problem-solving strategy, one that was used to overcome challenges offered by a shortage of nursing faculty and clinical sites. Simulation became widely used to assess students’ competence and readiness for basic care delivery prior to entering the clinical setting, as well as to prepare them for high-acuity but low exposure clinical activities, like cardiac arrest and obstetric emergencies, without putting the patient’s life at risk.
Simulation provides faculty with control over the learning environment, so students can be exposed to specific clinical events they may not witness in the health care setting.
Clinical Assistant Professor Anita Stephen, M.S.N., R.N., C.N.L., has been managing simulation scenarios for undergraduate students since she began at the college in 2011. She said she enjoys watching the students’ reactions when faced with unexpected challenges.
Lauren Witt, an accelerated B.S.N. student, said her experience with simulation helped her build confidence and feel comfortable in caring for patients. During her first interaction with simulation, she felt awkward and did not know where to start.
“For a moment, my classmates and I all stood around the sim model, speechless and staring like deer in the headlights,” Witt said. “At first, there was a mental block in applying the nursing skills learned in class before my instincts kicked in. I am so thankful that this initial interaction took place in a safe learning environment with a simulation manikin, and not in the hospital with a real patient. Since we have gone through the icebreaker simulations of walking into a room and initiating interactions with sim models, it comes naturally in the hospital setting with the real patients.”
“Even though the students are interacting with a manikin and not a real person, I try to make the situation as realistic and engaging as possible,” Stephen said. “Communication is so important as a nurse. Simulation allows the students to think critically and develop not only their communication
skills, but also their technical and cognitive skills.”