Life-size, computerized manikins bring realism to WNC nursing program

CARSON CITY - Nursing students at Western Nevada College will have access to a higher level of realism in learning to treat patients with the addition of two high tech manikins that can simulate symptoms and even "interact" with students through a microphone.

The manikins, valued at more than $42,000, are a gift from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Nevada State College schools of nursing. The project was coordinated by the Health Sciences System of the Nevada System of Higher Education. The equipment became available once students from UNLV and NSC, as well as the University of Nevada School of Medicine, began training together at the new Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas.

The manikins arrived "special delivery" Wednesday on a regularly scheduled flight of the Nevada Department of Transportation airplane from Las Vegas to Carson City Airport. They include a pregnant female (complete with a well-developed fetus) that can simulate giving birth, and a male. They will be utilized in nursing laboratory situations, along with WNC's other simulation manikins -- two with interchangeable body parts, one simulation baby, and four simulators that emulate vital signs.

"Having appropriate technology is extremely important to help our students develop critical thinking skills," said Dr. Judith Cordia, WNC Division Chair of Nursing and Allied Health. "It allows our students to better understand and carry out the safe care of patients. On behalf of the WNC community, I would like to thank UNLV and NSC for this generous gift. I would also like to thank the Health Sciences System for coordinating the effort to more efficiently use the resources among our state's higher education institutions."

Cordia said the high-tech manikins offer students a learning experience that is close to treating live patients. From a nearby control room, a lab instructor can speak into a microphone that is heard from the mouth of the manikin and describes symptoms such as pain or shortness of breath. The simulators can go into shock, suffer a heart attack, or choke from an obstructed airway.

"The pregnant manikin can 'describe' her contractions, and appropriate vital signs show up on monitors," Cordia said. "It's as real an environment as possible. We can simulate an emergency room setting where if the nurse does not treat the symptoms properly, the patient can 'die.' It can be an emotional, visceral experience in a lifelike scenario that helps students make the transition from theory to lab and from lab to actual care in a hospital."

Western currently has 85 first and second year nursing students who will benefit from the new simulators. Great Basin College in Elko is also receiving a manikin from NSHE Health Sciences. The NSHE program obtained a grant for a retrofit of its lab in Las Vegas and purchase of new equipment, allowing UNLV and NSC to donate existing simulators to sister institutions.

According to Cordia, the simulators will be utilized in several classes, including those that teach medical/surgical skills and those focusing on maternal/child health.


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