Nursing sophomores Lydia Felter, Naomi Lyle, Tina Li and Emma MacAllister practice on a dummy patient, the SimMa in Fagin Hall’s newly renovated simulation labs. The labs teach students by simulating real-life medical scenarios.

Credit: Amanda Suarez / The Daily Pennsylvanian

In any given week, hundreds of nursing students are treating patients on the first floor of Fagin Hall.

This semester is the first time these students are taking advantage of the newly renovated simulations labs, which features an operating table, anesthesia and oxygen machines and dummies with vital signs. The students even don a gown, a mask, booties and gloves.

“The goal is to create as much realism as possible,” Director of the Simulation Center Angela Iorianni-Cimbak said. “The labs engage the learner in activities that make the situation feel real to them.”

The traditional and outdated practice of nursing involved “just giving shots,” but that is not the case anymore, Iorianni-Cimbak added.

SimMan ­— the dummies and patient simulators — are programmed to speak, carry a heartbeat and blood pressure. The expanded simulation lab also has an intensive care room and a homecare suite.

Nursing professor Beth Quigley, who is teaching a class in the lab, said, “Students are able to process the steps and critically think about how they will care and assess individual patients.”

Iorianni-Cimbak said it took a team of people to make something like this happen. Faculty and staff in the nursing school met for 18 months to create a lab that was practical for today and also for the future.

The simulation center was first renovated in 2009, but at that time, there were additional plans to upgrade the technology.

March 2011 marked the beginning of the formal design to expand the simulation center to 7,400 square feet — a 40-percent increase in space — making it possible to make the lab settings more real, said Michael Dausch, Facilities and Real Estate Services executive director of Design and Construction.

The lab sees between 300 and 400 undergraduate and graduate nursing students each week.

“We were able to increase our number of visiting students since we had more to offer in terms of learning opportunities since the renovation,” Iorianni-Cimbak said.

Nursing students who have used the lab for classes and clinical training are appreciating the real-life setting.

“The classrooms now feel like real patients’ rooms — sinks and cupboards and all — rather than large rooms crammed with equipment,” Nursing and Wharton sophomore Helen Pun said.

The labs also have an audio-visual capture system and control rooms so that a simulation can be recorded and then used in debriefing — the most important part of the simulation, according to Iorianni-Cimbak.

Students can watch their performance, and professors can use it as a constructive feedback tool.

“For example, after the debriefing, a professor will say to her students ‘you guys communicated well, identified a leader and always had someone stay with the patient; that’s why you had a good outcome,’” Iorianni-Cimbak said.

This strong foundation that the simulation center provides students will serve them well in every health care arena, Quigley said.

“There can be a lot of anxiety associated with clinicals, and it’s nice to know that we can see certain scenarios in a controlled and safe setting before we actually have to perform in front of patients,” Nursing sophomore Sarah Voisine said. “The new technology really helps to increase our understanding of the physical exam and improves our confidence.”

“If students have that flight or fight response during the simulation, then I know I did my job,” Iorianni-Cimbak said.

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