Barrington students prep for nursing careers in Harper’s Simulated Hospital
Updated: March 15, 2013 11:32AM
PALATINE — With alarming lights and noises, hospitals and emergency rooms can often be hectic places.
To prepare future nurses for a career full of trying scenarios, Harper College throws its nursing students into life-life training situations in its simulation hospital.
On Feb. 7, the local students treated state-of-the-art mannequins for myocardial infarction, a heart attack.
“They get you ready for the chaos that’s in the hospital,” said Alicia Gamze, a Barrington native who is in her fourth semester studying nursing at Harper.
Gamze was among the students pressed into action last week. With the mannequin on a hospital bed in front of her, a moderator sat behind a two-way mirror providing a voice for the simulated patient.
The lifelike mannequin, complete with lungs and other essential organs, complained of chest pain and a tingling in her left arm. The students gave the patient medications and monitored their doses. Crackles and wheezing could be heard from the patients lungs.
Gamze has been working with the mannequins since she started in the Harper program. She said the medical situations she’s been exposed to have become more involved as she’s moved through her courses.
“We’ve been doing it since the first semester, but it’s never been this complex,” she said. “It gets you ready to hear what crackles would sound like on a real person.”
Harper’s two-year nursing program uses several simulation mannequins that were specifically designed for medical teaching and training purposes.
“The mannequins actually have pulses,” said Shannon Kipferl, a nursing student from Lake Barrington. “They have controls that can simulate certain situations.
Kipferl added that the program utilizes different mannequins for the various areas of medicine. For pediatrics, she said, they use a child-sized simulated patient. For labor and delivery, the mannequin actually sweats and gives birth.
“It’s amazing that we have this equipment,” Kipferl said.
In a second simulation last week, a mannequin was used to simulate a code blue cardiac arrest, in which the entire blood flow to the heart is interrupted, causing complete cardiac inactivity.
Students gathered around the patient, delivered chest compressions and doses of epinephrine in an effort to revive the heart.
As the students worked together, a moderator stressed the importance of communication. After a few minutes of feverish work, the team was able to revive the patient. Several of the students said the experience proved to be fun despite the pressure.
Jessica Grizely, another nursing student from Barrington, said the experience working in a simulated hospital with life-like mannequins has been extremely valuable in preparing for a real medical setting.
“They really help you get more comfortable,” Grizely said. “It helps you because you’re not as nervous.”
The cardiac arrest simulation was part of Grizely’s critical care course, which students take in their last semester. Grizely added that she also worked with the simulated patients in many of her previous courses, including pediatrics and surgery.
“They can talk through them, so it’s like a real patient,” she said. “And it’s good to get constructive criticism.”
In addition to simulated patients, Harper also offers eight simulated medical rooms to accommodate varying areas of medicine. The simulated rooms include equipment like a ventilator, vital sign monitors, suctioning devices and oxygen delivery devices.
Many of Harper’s nursing instructors have several years of experience in the field. Mary Brown, clinical supervisor for the nursing program, said the simulated hospital and patients not only prepare the students for careers, but also make the courses more interesting, even fun.
“They do lots of fun things that I didn’t have in nursing school,” Brown said.