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University of Oklahoma Opens Simulation Lab for Nursing Students

New "patients" made of plastic, metal and microchips are designed to sense their environment and simulate human patient experiences for students in the University of Oklahoma's College of Nursing.

University of Oklahoma,Norman,,Oklahoma,-,June,14,,2018:,The,University,Of,Oklahoma,
(TNS) — Screams, cries and wails permeate the second floor of the College of Nursing building.

The noises derive from patients made of plastic, metal, microchips and other materials, and they are part of a transformative remodel touted by the University of Oklahoma's Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing.

"We don't call them dummies because they're very sensitive. You can call them mannequins, simulators or task trainers," said Julie Fomenko, executive director of Simulation and Experiential Learning at the nursing college.

She isn't wrong, as these simulators can hear, see and feel, in a manner of speaking. They are designed to simulate what a patient is going through.

Fomenko said her school uses three levels of trainers: a low fidelity simulator, such as one where nursing students practice placing IVs; a medium fidelity simulator, which mimics human interaction; and a high fidelity simulator.

"The high fidelity simulators really mimic a person. We have a pediatric mannequin whose eyes will follow you when you talk to him. He cries and sounds just like an 8-year-old," Fomenko said.

Next year, she hopes to acquire a trainer that uses artificial intelligence to more closely mimic human experiences.

The new remodel was made possible after an anonymous donor gifted $2 million through OU Foundation Management Inc.

Chase Hass, a nursing student at OU from McAlester who will be graduating with an accelerated bachelor's of science this spring, said he was impressed by the mannequins.

"I think that this facility has definitely been one of the coolest places I've ever had to experience being in health care," Hass said. "I've done clinicals when I was an EMT, but nothing was ever this advanced. We have mannequins that react to how we treat them — like real patients."

The new simulation center spans 14,200 square feet and includes clinical rooms and a functional ADA-compliant apartment with washer and dryer.

Julie A. Hoff, dean of the College of Nursing, said OU architecture students helped to design the apartment, which is used to teach students how to work in different environments.

"The point of that is that our students will go out into the community and see all kinds of barriers to aging in place, and being able to live independently," she said. "So the idea was to really show students how you can design space to foster aging in place and continued independence."

The remodel was completed and opened to students on Jan. 24.

"With the pandemic it was supposed to be done last January. Things just slowed down getting doors and fixtures and things like that," she said.

Hoff said the opening of the floor will help faculty to prepare future students for real-life scenarios.

"We're just thrilled to have this space and really support our education," Hoff said.

She said the simulation room will also allow the university to increase the number of students it can admit as it decreases the number of clinical hours required in a clinical setting.

Fomenko came to OU shortly after the OU Board of Regents approved the $2 million gift.

"There were really no vital sign machines, no IV pumps, and very little equipment," Fomenko said. "Part of my initiative when I got here was to build a program."

She said simulators help students to understand the order by which they treat their patients.

"This is a safe environment for the students. They can even kill my mannequins. They learn from those experiences," Fomenko said. "For example, if you give blood pressure medicine before checking blood pressure, I can make the simulator have really low blood pressure. That way, a student has to figure out how to get out of that hole."

She said the experience reinforces the lesson that nurses should always check for blood pressure before administering blood pressure medication.

While mannequins are not the same as working with real patients, Fomenko said students can learn a lot from them.

"Our research shows us that 85 percent of what you can do in a skills lab is exactly what you would do in a clinical setting. So, I tell them that it is as real as it gets without working on real people," Fomenko said.

Hoff said the remodeling responds to a need in the state for more nurses.

In August, the College of Nursing received $2.7 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that address loans.

Last year, OU announced a partnership with Murray State College and the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma to accept all students who qualify for programs.

"We will continue to take all qualified candidates," Hoff said. Between 2020 and 2023, enrollment has increased by 62 percent. In our graduate program, we have seen enrollment increase by 400 percent since 2020," Hoff said.

©2024 The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.