July 27, 2007

Mock patients play starring role in VUSN skills course

Featured Image

VUSN students Tara Richardson, left, and Megan Thomas work on a simulated ICU patient while instructor Maria Overstreet, R.N., M.S.N., observes. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Mock patients play starring role in VUSN skills course

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing pre-specialty students are taking part in a three-week summer practicum in which simulation is playing an important role.

Maria Overstreet, M.S.N., R.N., assistant professor of Nursing, and Sally Miller, M.S.N., R.N., instructor and Skills Lab Manager, have integrated patient simulation into the summer practicum previously known as “Boot Camp.” There, students work in clinical rotations for 40 hours a week for three-and-a-half weeks, gaining experience working with patients and their families and also through hands-on simulation sessions.

“We can create scenarios that the students might not have been exposed to on the floor,” said Overstreet. “This is especially important when it comes to urgent situations like with Mr. Rodriquez today.”

Mr. Rodriquez is the simulated patient the students take turns assessing, two-by-two. They hear his voice and carry on a conversation with him thanks to Miller, who is orchestrating the computerized mannequin's verbal and physiological responses from another room. Students use their observational and physical assessment techniques and critical thinking skills in assessing the patient, consulting with a physician and determining when to call in the Rapid Response Team.

While the pair of students is at the bedside with Overstreet, who steps in as needed, the rest of the class is watching on a live feed in a nearby classroom.

They can learn by watching their classmates and prepare for their own turn inside the mock patient room.

Overstreet and Miller privately point out individual student strengths and areas for improvement after each session. Next, they gather the entire group to discuss the shared experience with their instructor, Michelle Bruer, and play back portions of each taped session to highlight different teaching points.

Students use words like “better communication,” “teamwork,” “time management,” “autonomy” and “priority problems” in describing what the experience emphasized for them.

Windle Morgan, a psychiatric mental health pre-specialty student, believes the practicum with simulation has propelled him forward in his understanding and confidence.

He and his classmates have been working at Vanderbilt University Hospital on the renal transplant floor. Before the simulated session, they had not had an opportunity to work on a critical response case other than through the simulation experience.

“We ask our students to open their minds and suspend their disbelief when entering the simulation lab,” said Miller. “We can offer students a very real, effective perspective that may help them perform safe and effective care more quickly.”