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New nursing labs raise the bar

January 25, 2008

New nursing labs raise the bar

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. But once the computerized Stryker 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 the 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 from an anonymous donor last spring. 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.

“It will be one of the finest simulation facilities in the region,” said Terry Miller, dean of the School of Nursing.

In Ramstad 317, small groups of two and three students work in the redesigned, rewired and newly floored 10-bed nursing unit. As they practice inserting intravenous tubes into the lifelike forearms, it’s easy to see how the new space better facilitates learning.

Nearby, Ramstad 315 has been transformed 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, it 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 simulator’s response to interventions by students can result in improvement, more problems or even death. It will greatly enhance the pre-clinical preparation of nursing students.

Also on its way is a maternal and neonatal birthing simulator, complete with newborn Hal. As the name suggests, the wireless patients will help nursing students simulate the childbirth process and possible complications.

The remodel includes the addition of a learning resource center that features four computer stations for licensure examination reviews and audiovisual materials.

“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.”

The School of Nursing is a professional school that combines nursing science with a strong foundation in natural sciences and the liberal arts. Along with preparing undergraduates for generalist nursing practice, it prepares others for designated specialties and responds to the education needs of practicing nurses.

University Communications staff writer Steve Hansen compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact him at ext. 8410 or at Photo by University Photographer Jordan Hartman.