“When the students first came in it was like they were in Disney World, and ‘this is so cool!’—they were so excited!” Ashley Richmond, RN (registered nurse) and Simulation Lab Coordinator, said.

The nursing simulation lab located in Rhodes Hall is the newest addition to Keene State College following the accreditation of the Nursing Program last semester.

Director of Nursing Mary-Ellen Fleeger commented on the growing program and how greater space was needed to accommodate students’ learning.

According to Fleeger, the program “started with eighteen students, then we went to thirty-three and the next year we went to the full complement of forty-eight,”  Fleeger said.

“It has been in the planning but the last six months are really—last summer to January—when we really did all the work,” Fleeger added.

The new simulation lab in Rhodes Hall features a lift which is used for transferring patients.

The new simulation lab in Rhodes Hall features a lift which is used for transferring patients.

What this new lab entails for students, as well as the program, is experience and comfort before entering the workforce among many other things.

“It will bridge the gap between classroom theory and the practical experience that they need to provide good quality patient care. The simulations here are like real patients,” Fleeger said.

“They [the students] have class—for example, a theory class on some basic skill in a regular classroom—and then they come here and practice on these simulated patients. So they learn the technique, they gain their confidence and then they go from there into the clinical where they take care of real patients and that confidence level and the accuracy of the skill is greatly improved. Experiential learning is… there is no substitute,” she added.

In addition to the experience with patients, they also learn how to use the equipment.

“It is fantastic for them just to have hands on experience with the equipment that they will be seeing and using in a clinical,” Richmond said.

The lab equipment itself is as new as the lab. Fleeger said everything is, “Up to date. We don’t have old equipment; we have state-of-the-art [supplies].”

Student reactions, especially of those within nursing, match the excitement and pride of their faculty.

Junior Brittany Adair said, “The lab is absolutely stunning. Its transformation is incredible and I could never have imagined a simulator lab to look like this. Every detail was taken into account and that made it look like a real medical facility.”

Junior Savannah Steevens commented on how appreciative she and her classmates are.

An EKG heart rate reading is displayed on the back wall of the lab.

An EKG heart rate reading is displayed on the back wall of the lab.

“I know a lot of students who are at other schools who have had nursing programs longer than we have and they don’t have the technology that we have here. So we are very fortunate. I don’t think we all have even wrapped our heads around it yet that we get to use this every day,” Steevens said.

Using the lab, having access to it for the required classes and learning through simulation will, as Fleeger said, help bridge gaps and aid the experiential learning process. “This lab has changed the program drastically in how the professors are able to provide education,” Adair said, “We are able to do a full range of activities in this lab—it is very multifunctional.”

Another benefit for the students who are currently using the lab is the familiarity factor. Steevens said having a heath care setting rather than the classroom setting is helpful.

“I think the fact that the lab looks and feels more like a health care setting and less like a classroom helps us assimilate to what it is going to be like when we are actually out in the field and when we go into our clinical location. It just makes us feel really comfortable and it helps all of us feel like what we are doing is really legitimate,” Steevens said.

Also, for students who may not have experience upon entering the program, like junior Brendan Snyder,  the lab can help them to learn everything they need to.

Snyder said he whas gained experience, “especially at the beginning because not having any previous experience in nursing—just an interest—the lab is giving me an insight until I start [clinical].”

Fleeger said that with all that the lab has to offer, “There isn’t anything we can’t teach them.” Also taking into account the faculty and students used to use the lab at River Valley Community College, Fleeger said, “I like the lab because it is convenient on campus, the students and faculty don’t have to go someplace else.”

The lab includes five med-series beds, two intensive care rooms, a physical assessment station and a nursing station.

“It’s everything they would see when they go out into clinical,” Fleeger said.

Hospital beds hooked up to IV towers are another feature that allows nursing students to gain experience in the field.

Hospital beds hooked up to IV towers are another feature that allows nursing students to gain experience in the field.

As the nursing majors become more comfortable with their new lab and profession, the students encourage others who may be on the fence to consider nursing.

“If anyone is even considering it, curious about it, or thinking maybe you missed your chance because you are a sophomore or something, you definitely haven’t. It is really fun and it’s great, and all of the staff are nice and helpful,” Steevens said.

Snyder also said, speaking to the male students on campus, “I think I would promote any male who is thinking about nursing to look into it further, or even try it, because there is a low amount of males in this career and I think there should be a push because there are jobs out there for males who want to be nurses.”

The inclusion of the lab for the program is a selling point for other students who want to come to KSC and gain the experience current Nursing majors are.

Snyder said, “I think the lab is going to bring in more people to the school who want to do nursing because it’s that next step above another nursing program. And, we have the technology and the professors that want to keep moving forward, and this is just one step of many that will come in the future.”


Nicole Carrobis can be contacted at ncarrobis@keene-equinox.com

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