At the University of Louisiana at Lafayette nursing students can be assured that they’ll experience a wide variety of pediatric and labor/delivery issues before they graduate. In 2007, the school created the Maternal/Child Life Skills lab, a high-tech facility equipped with life-like maternal and pediatric simulators.
Assistant professor of nursing and lab director Lisa Broussard, RN, DNS, said that the school implemented adult simulators five years ago and has since searched for other ways to utilize the technology. Full-sized computerized mannequins have been growing in popularity as a way to mimic real life environments and patient problems but ULL’s lab is one of the first in the country to focus on maternal and child life skills.
“If you walk into the newborn lab unit, it looks just like a neonatal intensive care unit. The students really have the feeling that they are in an actual clinical setting. The babies, talk, cry and do everything,” said Broussard.
The unit features four infant simulators, two pediatric simulators and two birthing simulators. Newborn simulators will also be added later this year and all of the simulators can provide instant feedback on the treatment and care that a student issues. Just as with their adult counterparts, instructors can use the birthing simulators to create a variety of medical conditions including a preeclampsia and preterm labor. The infant and child simulators can also be used to train nursing students to handle respiratory distress, bronchiolitis, hyperbilirubinemia, cellulites and newborn simulation. Broussard said that one of the biggest advantages of the simulators is that they allow students to witness problems that they may not have the opportunity to see in a real clinic.
“We teach them both the normal and the complicated issues so that they are able to recognize those complications and provide the appropriate interventions,” said Broussard.
Melinda Oberleitner, RN, DNS, APRN, CNS, associate dean and head of the nursing department, said the lab allows students to handle complex problems in a safe environment. Students can test their skills in treating a pulmonary embolism or a heart attack without putting the patients in any danger. And instructors can allow students to make mistakes then point out the consequences of inappropriate treatments.
“We can have them experience what might happen in a real clinical unit, break that down for them and provide [feedback] on what they did correctly, what they can do differently the next time, and do all of it in a safe environment,” said Oberleitner.
Broussard said that another advantage of the simulators is the ability to make changes “on the fly.” Instructors can watch how a student reacts to certain situations then make changes based upon that student’s learning needs. By constantly throwing curve balls at the students, it allows them to experience a wide variety of medical issues in a short period of time without the stress that would accompany treating a real patient. “One student may be moving at a faster level than another and we can make it much more individualized,” said Broussard.
Oberleitner said that as the costs have come down in recent years, the school has been able to take advantage of more simulation technologies. There are approximately 1,500 nursing students in the college and Oberleitner said that today’s students tend to be more tech-savvy and welcome the advanced training tools.
“We have taken the role of becoming a simulation center in our region for other faculties from other schools. We’ve done workshops so we can show our colleagues what the benefits of simulation are,” said Oberleitner.