SIM NURSES Nursing simulation labs at Temple University's College of Public Health give students practice in real-world care

What can you learn from a manikin? Quite a lot, it turns out. Using sophisticated programming and realistic manikins, nursing programs nationwide are challenging students in simulated patient care situations. A 2014 study found that nursing programs can replace up to half of a curriculum's real-world clinical practice with simulations in a lab setting.

Here's a look at what goes on in the as-good-as-real simulation labs at Temple’s Department of Nursing—and a preview of what its expanded, updated sim lab will soon look like.

The Sim Suite

The Nursing Department maintains five simulation suites on the university’s Health Science Campus. Under the leadership of Martha Kubik, Department Chair and Professor, and John Duffy, Assistant Professor and Director of the Nursing Resource Center, it’s planning to expand those labs in the near future.

Meet Sim Man

Lab manikins, also called Human Patient Simulators, have an impressive list of skills. Realistic from head to toe, they can be programmed for many medical conditions, human responses, and technical procedures. They can cough, cry out in pain, and even respond to simple questions. Manikins also have heart, lung and bowel sounds.

Simulation is an effective teaching strategy, but it doesn’t come cheap: Sim Man, the most advanced manikin available, costs about $130,000. Temple’s Nursing Department currently has one Sim Man, purchased several years ago. The department plans to replace it soon, and will add additional manikins to its labs as well.

The Empathy Response

The irony of simulation is that it really does feel real. There’s an empathy response when you walk into the lab and see a manikin lying on an exam table or hospital bed. There’s a natural impulse to say, “Hey, Sim Guy, how are you feeling?” You want to reassure him with a gentle pat on the foot. You look for a chart to pick up and read.

Sim Live

Simulation can also involve real humans. “Standardized patients,” as they’re called, are trained actors that greatly enhance the reality of the student–patient encounter. These simulations put students in challenging situations like interacting with an upset patient or breaking difficult news to patients and families. During a live exchange with a standardized patient, nursing faculty members can assess students on their interpersonal skills, their teaching ability and their physical assessment competency.

Guided Practice

After every simulation and standardized patient encounter, trained faculty members facilitate a critical reflective conversation with the simulation group or individual student. This conversation helps the students to clarify, analyze, and pull together information and reactions to the simulation to improve their future performance in real life encounters.

Pictured: Nursing faculty member Sally Kapp guides a student through a procedure.

Home Health Care

Sheku Sillah, a home health RN enrolled in Temple’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, examines a standardized patient. As a DNP-prepared advanced practice nurse, Sillah will be able to work autonomously as a general practitioner following graduation—which he plans to do in Sierra Leone, his home country.

“What brings you in today?”

Erik Dutko, an RN with the Temple University Health System, is also enrolled in the DNP program and hopes work as an advanced practice nurse in a family practice setting after graduating. In this live simulation, he explains to the standardized patient what he’s doing and why.

Learning and Doing

Nursing faculty and students say they’re enthusiastic about simulation and the opportunity it provides them to learn, practice and develop new skills in a safe, supportive and “real-life” environment.

As Assistant Professor Mary Ann Dugan explains, book learning is one thing, but applying that knowledge in the real world takes it to a whole new level. “Simulation takes students from the mindset of ‘this is practice; I am thinking about what I’ve learned’ to ‘this is real; I am performing what I know.’”

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Temple CPH

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