Student nurses practice concepts they've learned in class on mannequins. Photo by: Michelle Ross

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Student nurses practice concepts they've learned in class on mannequins Photo by: Michelle Ross
Student nurses practice concepts they’ve learned in class on mannequins
Photo by: Michelle Ross

Nursing students often spend their time shadowing professionals and working in labs on mannequins.

Situations with patients can be lacking. To compensate for that, TCU simulates hospital situations using actors as patients and family members.

According to the curriculum, students begin practicing with these actors their spring semester of junior year.  Two to three nursing students at a time are challenged to take the concepts they’ve learned in class and apply skills to the patient, said Ashley Franklin, assistant nursing professor.

She said the actors receive a one-page description of the scene. They wear a walkie talkie in their ear to hear cues given from the lab instructors.

Actors and students fill the empty room to simulate hospital situations. Photo by: Michelle Ross
Actors and students fill the empty room to simulate hospital situations.
Photo by: Michelle Ross

Professional actress Paulie Killgore was hired to act as a family member.

I’ve worked on stage, TV, films, commercials, modeling and in improv,” Killgore said. “I’ve never done a real scenario for training purposes.”

Killgore said she played a wife who was visiting her husband in the hospital. Unbeknownst to the student nurses, her character had dementia. While the students treated her husband for asthma and heart troubles, she rummaged through cabinets and took fake pills, even after the students asked her what she was taking.

“The pills were actually vitamin B-12,” Killgore said.

Franklin said 20 actors are cast in various scenarios in the simulation labs.

“Some of the actors do commercials and TV shows,” but there are no qualifications needed to be hired because we have community members too, Franklin said.

The lab experience allows students to try things they couldn’t in the hospitals, Franklin said.

A pharmacy is also part of the simulation lab. Photo by: Michelle Ross
A pharmacy is also part of the simulation lab.
Photo by: Michelle Ross

“The hospital nurses tell the students where to step, what to say and what to do,” Franklin said. “Student’s don’t have any authority on the patient.”

Junior nursing major Crysta Coomer said, “the simulation labs are really fun and it’s a lot easier to learn in them compared to the hospitals.”

“We try to use live actors in every simulation, but mannequins are sometimes used when students practice invasive procedurals,” Franklin said. “Like when a patient needs a tube inserted in their nose or bladder.”

After an hour in the simulation lab, students receive feedback from their peers who watched them on TV.

Franklin said student feedback on the simulation labs has been very positive, but it can take awhile for students to realize they too have to perform like actors for their classmates.  

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Michelle Ross is a senior Journalism and Communication Studies double major from Austin, Texas. When she is not in the newsroom, she loves to dance, go on random adventures and pet dogs on campus.