They say practice makes perfect. While clinicals and rotations give nursing students hands-on experience in patient care, it's important for future RNs to possess the ability to work under extreme pressure. Advances in technology have made simulation medicine an indispensable tool at many teaching hospitals. The learning method uses actors, surveillance equipment, and high-tech, responsive mannequins to create high-stress scenarios in which students need to think fast. Mannequins are wired to produce vital signs, which are recorded into computer programs and can later be reviewed to understand strengths and weaknesses in students' choice of action. To add an emotional component, actors portraying family members are on hand to express traumatic worry and aggravation over their loved ones' health.
"Simulation medicine provides nurses with the opportunity to practice skills in real-life situations [without] the worry of actually hurting a patient," says Kathryn Harden, R.N., B.S.N. "It affords the luxury of analysis and review—both during and after the event." A graduate of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, Harden used mannequins produced by Laerdal, including SimMan and Resusci Anne, in her nursing curricula. Each mannequin is completely adaptable to a given scenario and can be amended to present a series of injuries, cancers, or diseases. As a staff nurse at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harden values the stress-management skills she gained through simulation medicine. "It can get intense," she notes. "At first, it felt a little awkward to be working with a robot, but you forget about all that and just focus on the task at hand: saving lives, regardless if they're real or not."