New nursing laboratory ensures students are prepared complex clinical situations

By: Steve Hansen
When the School of Nursing ordered 10 new hospital beds for its improved nursing laboratory, the process of moving them into the third-floor space of Ramstad Commons didn’t appear to pose a challenge.

Lab coordinator Matofa Salafai observes a student drawing up a medication.

But once the computerized Styker hospital beds arrived this fall, it became painfully obvious that more than brute strength was needed to get the 500-pound beds up the stairs. Instead, a large, third-floor window was removed and an extra-large extended forklift was brought in to carefully maneuver all 10 beds through it.

The state-of-the art equipment is one piece of the School of Nursing’s new Learning Resource Center Complex. The facility, a collection of three redesigned and upgraded nursing laboratories, encompasses what were once seven rooms designated as laboratory space to teach the school’s 350-plus nursing students.

The cutting-edge facility was funded through a $300,000 gift given by an anonymous donor this past spring. But the gift’s legacy is much more far-reaching than a simple remodel. The improvements will advance laboratory instruction and assure that all PLU nursing students have access to state of the art science simulation.

“Upon completion, it will be one of the finest simulation facilities in the region,” said Terry Miller, dean of the School of Nursing.
The nursing school is a professional school that combines nursing science with a strong foundation in natural sciences and the liberal arts. It prepares undergraduate students for generalist nursing practice; builds upon undergraduate educational experiences to prepare nurses for advanced practice in designated specialties; and responds to the education needs of practicing nurses to remain current, competent practitioners or to revise the focus of their practice.

In Ramstad 317, the outdated, hand-cranked hospital beds have been replaced by the new computerized models. As Clinical Instructor Pamela Burns and Learning Resource Center Coordinator Matofa Salafai work with undergraduate students, it is easy to see how the new space facilitates easy access to learning. Small groups of two and three  students spread out among the redesigned, rewired and newly floored 10-bed nursing unit, collaborating with each other as they practice inserting intravenous tubes into life-like forearms. The room, quite simply, is alive with learning.

Nearby, Ramstad 315 has been remodeled into a smaller simulation laboratory space, complete with an observation window and two emergency room gurneys for running separate simulations concurrently.

The center is still in progress, with some of the equipment yet to be installed. When completed, the lab will include two full-body patient simulators, including a brand new Laerdal SimMan that simulates a range of medical and surgical scenarios. Nursing students can take the SimMan’s pulse, listen to his heart or watch it on an attached cardiogram, discover a blocked airway and perform intubation or ventilation. When a nursing student inserts a needle into the SimMan’s veins, pressurized simulated blood “flashes back” out of the needle, just as it does from a human vein.

The SimMan has 2,500 cardiac rhythm variants designed to meet scenario-based training needs for advanced cardiac life support. He even speaks and moans. The simulator’s response to interventions by students can result in improvement, more problems or even death.

Needless to say, the use of the SimMan enables the nursing faculty to offer training sessions and detailed debriefings for greatly enhanced student pre-clinical preparation.

Also on its way is a maternal and neonatal birthing simulator, complete with newborn Hal. As the name suggests, these wireless patients will help nursing students simulate the childbirth process. The simulators include built-in compressors and will provide total mobility with airway, breathing, circulation, speech, breech, C-section deliveries, as well as pre-clinical exposure to shoulder dystocia, and post-partum hemorrhaging.

Down the hallway, former faculty offices have been transformed into a new space for the School of Nursing’s learning resource center. It features four computer stations for licensure examination reviews and audiovisual materials.

There is no question the anonymous gift will help ensure that PLU stays on the cutting edge of nursing instruction, and that the new laboratory facilities will change the nature and approach to pre-clinical instruction. “Our challenge now becomes developing instructors who can maximize the new learning opportunities available to them with this technology,” Miller said.

“Ultimately, our nursing students will be better prepared for highly complex clinical situations prior to entering the reality of clinical practice,” Miller continued. “Our greatest call as educators is to inspire our students to seek levels of achievement and service they never dreamed possible, and we think the new laboratory facilities support this call.”

Photo Top: Instructor Pam Burns (left) shows Andrea Peters how to evaluate a vein on Raquel Bolender.