(T-G photo by Mitchell Petty) [Order this photo]
All of a sudden, you're put into a real-life scenario with patients' lives at stake. Granted, students will have supervisors keeping a close eye on their every move, but wouldn't it be nice if a sense of self-confidence and familiarity was already instilled?
The Tennessee Technology Centers in middle Tennessee are doing what they can to make this leap as easy and comfortable as possible for their students.
They've hired an adjunct professor, if you will. His name is SIM man, and he doesn't say a whole lot.
A man of few words, he throws up on a daily basis, has a heart murmur and high blood pressure, and noisy lung and bowel sounds.
He lives in a bed in a modular hospital on the Army National Guard Base in Smyrna, and students from Licensed Practical Nursing classes from centers in Shelbyville, Murfreesboro, McMinnville, Fayetteville and Winchester visit him at least five days in their training before clinical sessions.
SIM man may sound lazy and nasty, but he's actually a great teacher. He's an innovative computerized patient that teaches the nursing students from the five centers how to treat patients in a controlled, low-stress environment.
(T-G photo by Mitchell Petty)
"If they've dealt with the SIM man and he's crashed or had low blood sugar, they know what to do," Miller said. "I've had students come back and say, 'Actually, that really did happen, so I knew to do this or that.'
"They can now go into a patient's room and say, 'I've assessed that before,'" she added.
This hands-on approach to learning is something that the students look forward to, even if it means making a long trek to Smyrna. To them, the experience is worth it.
"It puts you in that 'what-if' scenario, so when you get in that tough spot you've got something to fall back on," said Brittany Foster, an LPN student from McMinnville.
Foster demonstrated her phlebotomy skills by installing an IV into the SIM man. Fake blood circulated through the arm, and with her successful prod, she got the flashback that she was looking for.
She hasn't even done a clinical rotation yet, but she performed her task with confidence and grace. As a patient or an instructor, that goes a long way to provide peace of mind.
The students genuinely value their time with the SIM man. As a matter of fact, they wish they could spend more time practicing with him.
"They want to come more because it's hands-on, but it's low stress," said Miller.
The students are glad to put to work what they've spent countless hours studying and learning. And as potential patients, we should all be glad that we'll be treated to competent, confident LPNs that have proudly studied in middle Tennessee.Brittany Foster, a Tennessee Technology Center LPN student from McMinnville, demonstrates how to install an IV into the SIM man.
Josiah Foster, Nichole Dixon and Tiffany Hutchens perform checks on the SIM man during one of their sessions at the Smyrna lab.