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Nursing students pivot from hospital clinicals to sim lab

Mar 13, 2020
A woman in a mask and scrubs cares for an infant mannequin
A woman in a mask and scrubs cares for an infant mannequin

KOKOMO, Ind. – No matter what the circumstances, you can’t stop a nurse.

When nursing faculty had to respond to emerging risks from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), nursing home and some hospital-based clinical learning experiences were moved to the campus simulation lab. 

Thursday, the center, which simulates a hospital experience, operated as both a birthing center and medical/surgical unit, so students could continue their nursing studies.

Nursing student Kelsey Jackson had worried clinicals would be canceled completely, and was happy to continue.

“It was stressful to think we wouldn’t get to do a clinical,” she said. “We’re learning in the safest environment possible for now, and I have full faith we’ll get to do more later.”

Bridget Whitmore, clinical associate professor of nursing, worked with Tammy Ledbetter, simulation center director, to create situations for a full 12-hour clinical not only for her obstetrics students, but also for adjunct faculty Naomi Jones’s medical/surgical class.

Ledbetter said it was a focused day for the students, because in the simulation center, faculty can create specific scenarios they want the students to experience, rather than working with the various cases that come into a health care center.

“We were very intentional in our planning,” she said. “We don’t have to wait for a baby to be born, we don’t have to wait for a gastrointestinal bleed to come in. In some ways, students get a more intense clinical, because we don’t have to wait for something to come in.”

Jones said her students practiced giving assessments to virtual patients, starting IVs, and participated in simulations of the kind of patients they might see as nurses. They also learned

how to put on and take off protective equipment in a way that avoids contamination, “which is really pertinent to what is happening right now.”

Naomi Leuck practiced a post-partum check on virtual patient Noelle, with Whitmore’s guidance, then gently placed her pink-capped newborn in her arms, satisfied she’s on her way to recovery.

“It allowed us to keep learning, in a safe environment,” said Leuck. “We’re getting to practice what we’ve learned in the classroom before we work with real patients. It builds our confidence.”

She appreciated the opportunity for hands-on practice.

“It gives us a better idea and understanding of what to expect, rather than just listening to a lecture,” she said. “Our faculty do their best to give us as real an experience as possible.”

In another hospital room, Taylor Hendrix leaned down, stethoscope in hand, to listen to the heart and lung sounds of a virtual infant patient, practicing a head-to-toe assessment including suctioning, measuring head circumference, and other standard checks for newborns.

She noted that the virtual infant feels very real, from its lifelike skin, to its floppy newborn head, and it can move its arms and legs like a real baby.

“We’d love to be in the hospital if we could, but there are good alternatives here on campus,” she said. “We’re making the most of it, it’s for everyone’s safety.”

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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