☰ In This Section

Nursing Students Gain Experience Through Hands-On Simulations

Nursing Students Gain Experience Through Hands-On Simulations

Nursing graduate Paige Goenner ’17 talks about the impact of class simulation experiences in providing hands-on learning.

Bethel nursing students participate in many opportunities to practice the skills and knowledge they learn from textbooks and in their classroom courses. Simulations that realistically depict the situations they’ll encounter in the nursing profession is one such opportunity—and it’s vital to their preparation as future nurses.

Nursing graduate Paige Goenner '17 talks about the impact of simulation experiences, or “sim” as it is commonly called, on her development as a nurse. Says Goenner: “Normally, if you’re showing everything you’ve learned in a test, you’re just answering test questions as opposed to showing, ‘this is who I am as a nurse and this is who I’m going to be in my future practice.’”

Nursing simulations, used in addition to clinical experiences, take place throughout Bethel’s nursing program and cover a broad range of hands-on experiences, explains Diane Dahl, dean of nursing and health, medical, and social sciences. Students work with mannequins to practice injections and changing wound dressings, for instance, or on computers with simulated charts and hospital medication processes. Another interactive, computer-based program, allows students to engage with multiple practice scenarios, such as caring for a patient with a collapsed lung. These virtual simulations allow students to make critical decisions about care as they watch how patients respond to their decisions.

In their junior year, students start working with life-like mannequins that have a heartbeat, blood pressure, respiratory sounds, and other vitals signs. Students first work with mannequin-patients that have one problem with multiple layers, says retired Associate Professor of Nursing David Cheesebrow. In these simulations, students learn how to interact with family members, often played by their fellow nursing students. They experience situations in hospital and home care settings. In their senior year, the scenarios grow increasingly complex. “The patient may have multiple diseases or problems. Students see multiple systems and how they interact,” Cheesebrow explains.

Simulations are so important to helping students integrate their knowledge and skills that this year Bethel’s nursing department added a senior-level course with additional complex simulations. There are many situations students are no longer allowed to experience in clinicals due to patient safety concerns, such as a complicated childbirth, says Dahl. Simulations not only give students opportunities to practice those skills, it also gives them room to make mistakes. “Faculty allow them to make that mistake in the simulated setting and then the mannequin-patient responds to that mistake,” Dahl says.  Other nursing students watch a video feed of the simulation taking place. At the end, students and faculty debrief the simulation and discuss other options of care.

“Simulation is a really fun experience,” says Goenner. “In our senior year it’s exciting because it’s a safe environment to try new things you’ve been learning about, and for your nursing friends to talk about what they liked about what you did, what they would have done, and what you can improve… It’s nice to have people who are in the same boat as you give you their input.”

By the time senior students take the end-of-life simulation in their spring term, they’re ready to use advanced nursing and critical thinking skills to act at a higher level of care. In this simulation they are faced with caring for patients and families in one of the most challenging situations they will encounter in their nursing careers.

It’s unlike any of the other simulations, says Cheesebrow. “Many of the other simulations are more clinical. This one is a lot more personal. This is what makes it a great sim.”

“Some people cried,” Goenner recalls of the emotions students experienced during the simulation. “It was a sobering experience.”

Yet this experience is a culmination of the many hours of clinical and simulation work Bethel students complete throughout their time in the nursing program. And just like the other experiences, students take the opportunity to learn through it.

“When I was a prospective student and I was walking through the amazing Sim Lab we have at Bethel, I was nervous.” Goenner recalls. “You’re afraid everyone is judging you.” She gives this advice to new students: “Don’t be scared. No one is judging you. Just go in and be ready to learn. It’s a very encouraging environment.”

Read more about nursing simulations or explore the nursing department at Bethel. Bethel also offers adult healthcare programs in our adult undergraduate and graduate schools.