Nursing lab ‘builds confidence,’ tests students in real-world situations

Nick Walton

When the Olga A. Mural Simulation Laboratory opened in April 2008, the intent was to simulate clinical situations and provide practice for nursing students.

A year later, the laboratory has become more integrated with the College of Nursing through a transition process.

“I think there’s a learning curve for both the faculty and students,” said Nancy Aho, laboratory coordinator. Aho said since last May, there have been courses to help educate faculty about the capabilities and lessons that can take advantage of the laboratory.

The result of this is the laboratory being implemented in two-thirds of the undergraduate courses in the College of Nursing.

The laboratory allows students to practice situations they normally might not get a chance to experience in a regular clinical situation. Jessica Zalewski, a senior in the accelerated nursing program, used the laboratory to listen to what different heart and lung parts sound like to help detect them.

“It’s more difficult to read what a (heart) murmur might sound like, and then when you actually hear it, it’s so much more simpler to detect it,” Zalewski said. “You can read about what things might sound like or look like, but until you actually experience it you aren’t going to fully grasp it.”

Aho said the laboratory also helps build confidence, communication skills and learn safety parameters in nursing situations. In some situations, programmers can interfere with the equipment to simulate a real life malfunction, which is designed to test the student’s mental process. Programmer Jeremy Jarzembak said having scenarios like this trains students’ thought process to listen to patients and not always get caught up with technology.

Programmer Tim Meyers said the first part of fall semester was disappointing in terms of the rate of productivity, but now the pace is near the original goal.

“Right now I’m working on like six different simulations and that can be overwhelming,” Meyers said.

Jarzembak said learning from previous experiences has helped improve the comfort level when programming scenarios.

“We know what we’re looking for now; we’re able to program faster,” Jarzembak said. “We know what has worked in the past, and we know what we need to change to make a better student learning activity.”

After each activity, Jarzembak said there is a debriefing session where students can talk with faculty about how they handled a certain situation and give their opinion about what they would like to see in future scenarios.

When choosing the scenarios, Jarzembak said programmers will look at the course objectives, lecture material and how the situation can move the students to reach course objectives.

“We probably spend more time practicing getting (situations) ready than actually running it,” Jarzembak said. “You got to think of all the different things and possibilities that students might think of and be one step ahead of them. You can be set and rigid on how you program it, but you have to be kind of adaptable and change things as (students) come up with good nursing outcomes.”

The simulation lab was funded by Olga A. Mural, a major university donor who passed away on May 30, 2008. Aho complimented Mural’s forward thinking about nursing and technology.

“She was a very forward thinking lady in terms of the donation that she made across our campus to various departments,” Aho said. “This project really is placing us in an emerging area in terms of integrating technology with nursing education.”

Contact health reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].