“The Sims” – Live-action nursing simulation
So you’re sitting in the classroom chatting with friends before class starts, when the door swings open. At first glance, you think it’s your professor, she has the same body shape, same height, same stature. You turn away and then something makes you look back. You realize this person has on a horrible black shaggy wig, and so many layers of clothes it looks like a pillow is shoved under her shirt, and she’s wearing those huge sunglasses that are meant for post-op cataract surgery patients. She storms in the room, throws her books on the desk and crawls under the table. Class has begun.
My teacher was playing the part of a depressed suicidal client. After the confusion (and a lot of laughter) died down, we realized that we were supposed to be intervening. She started to make a noose and motioned as if she were to hang herself. A few brave souls got up and started using their therapeutic communication skills to talk her down. They were fairly effective, but meanwhile, half the class was laughing at such an odd situation, and the other half was just walking in the room and seeing the teacher on the floor with students around her thinking there had been a terrible accident! After talking her out of her “depression,” our professor soon jumped up and threw off the wig, the glasses and her first layer of clothing – she was manic – literally. Then came the dancing around the class room, talking rapidly, clang associations, and grandiose thinking. Needless to say the class was in an uproar and more than one student captured in on video. At this point, we’re not even thinking about therapeutic communication, because the humor of it all was just too much.
This is simulation. We were thrown into an acted out situation and expected to react appropriately as nurses. But is it really effective? Aside from the few students who were well versed enough (and bold enough) to try and use their therapeutics on the patients, the only lesson the rest of the class got was on how unpredictable nursing school can be. Similarly, but far more educational of an experience, this week we were prepped with 5 different patient scenarios, and then thrown into a classroom with 5 mock patients (our upperclassmen) acting out various mental health disorders (and doing a very good job at it). I suppose there is a lot to be learned from these “Sim” situations, and it’s far better to mess up with communication skills in front of fake patients instead of real ones. But sometimes I wonder if the skills are really being translated across the board. Are we learning effectively in this situation, and when we’re thrown into the “real-world” are we going to be able to recognize the situation and act on it appropriately based on what we learned from the “sim-world?”
Nursing students: have you had similar (crazy or not) experiences in the simulation lab?
Nurses: did you have simulation experiences and do you think they were effective in helping you learn what to do in different situations?
I'm a brand new, full-fledged, fresh-out-of-school RN! And better yet, I landed the job of my dreams working with children. I love what I do, and while everyday on the job is a new (and sometimes scary) experience, I'm taking it all in - absorbing everything I can about this amazing profession we all fell in love with.
By Ani Burr, RN