Students learn by doing at the Research College of Nursing’s simulation center

Imagine walking into your very first job as a nurse confident that you can handle anything. That’s the intent behind The Seelos Center at HCA-owned Research College of Nursing in Kansas City, Mo.

With four hospital rooms, a nurses’ station and three exam rooms that are set up like a clinic or doctor’s office, the simulation center recreates a true working environment for nursing students. They encounter scenarios that require both clinical and communication skills. In addition to patients portrayed by actors who come in to play a role, the center has four manikins that can exhibit physical symptoms. The adult female can even give birth.

Real-world settings

Manikins present symptoms nurses are likely to encounter with real patients.

“The goal is for the students to come into an environment that is realistic to what they will see in clinical practice,” says Tobey Stosberg, director of The Seelos Center. “Instead of sitting at a desk and learning by reading a book or hearing someone give a lecture, they are learning by actually doing.”

The $1.5 million center, funded by a generous donor, started its first simulations in March, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Students get immersed in all aspects of a true nursing job, from taking orders from a doctor over the phone, to speaking with a patient’s spouse to managing more than one patient at one time. And then there are the manikins — one infant, one 5-year-old, one adult male and one adult female. They do things even the most dedicated patient actors cannot do. “You can’t have an actor change their heart rate or have a certain blood pressure, but we can do that with these simulators,” says Stosberg.

Instructors can control the way the manikin’s heart sounds, give them an erratic pulse, make their lungs sound a certain way. They can have seizures. Their eyes respond to light. They blink and they produce bowel sounds.

“You can even feel contractions on the abdomen of the birthing manikin,” says Stosberg. “It’s all pretty amazing.”

Follow-up is key

Following any scenario, students come together with instructors to discuss their experience and their actions.

“The debriefing is just as important as the actual scenario,” Stosberg says. ”It’s where we can find out the student’s thought process — why they did some- thing a certain way.”

At the moment, the students all come from the Research College of Nursing, which partners with nearby Rockhurst University to offer a bachelor of nursing degree and a graduate program of its own. There are talks about extending access to other HCA entities that are interested in training nurses or doctors for specific certifications.