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Meet Alice. Your Nurse, Of Sorts.

NSU's "Alice"

Hi, Alice.  I’m Brooke and I’m going to be your labor and delivery nurse.  How are you feeling?”  asked Brooke Humphries before examining a 24-year-old named Alice who was in labor. Within a few moments, Humphries and other nurses discovered that Alice’s baby was breach.  Going over her chart, they considered several factors before deciding whether to make a breach delivery or prepare for a Caesarean section, all while maintaining a professional and caring attitude towards their patient and preparing for the baby’s arrival. 

Alice is actually a high fidelity interactive mannequin whose job is to simulate labor and delivery for Humphries, a student from Natchitoches, and her classmates in their third semester of clinicals at Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing and Allied Health.  Alice and other human patient simulators are part of Northwestern State’s Shreveport Nursing Center simulation labs, facilities designed to provide realistic scenarios for student practice.  Each student nurse attending Alice had a role in the difficult breach delivery. 

Assistant Professor of Nursing Mollie Moody asked the team of students questions about Alice’s and her baby’s condition and coached them on how to communicate with each other.  Anatomically correct Alice can be programmed to respond to questions and simulate the processes of labor.  The students were preparing for a test that would take place on the following day in which they would demonstrate theirknowledge of procedure in the labor and delivery room, as well as examining the newborn and recording its Apgar score. 

In another assessment lab, first semester nursing students made abdominal, lymphatic and head and neck and assessments under the instruction of Dr. Debra Clark, assistant professor of nursing, and Callie Roberts, lab coordinator.  In this class, students began the semester learning to check vitals before moving on to dressing wounds, inserting catheters, changing beds occupied by patients and practicing bedside manner with low fidelity mannequins and a few realistic body parts. 

 “I love the anatomy and physiology part of it,” said student Alison Tison as she practiced administering an intramuscular injection into a realistic gluteus maximus.  “Plus the fact that you are helping people.” 

Meanwhile, Denise Winiarski’s first semester clinicals class practiced the proper technique for putting on surgical gloves without contaminating them. 

“We follow the rules of asepsis and practice living in the rules of sterility.  By the time they are fourth level students, it’s second nature,” Winiarski said. 

The students in the simulation labs were enthusiastic about the hands-on nature of nursing. 

“It’s fun,” said Halel Golden of Bossier City.  “But when we have practicum days, you’re stressed.” 

“If you fail practicum, you fail,” added Chantelle Stephens of Shreveport. 

“I don’t think people realizewhat we do,” said Winiarski, who chairs the Department of Nursing’s simulation committee.  “In addition to the mannequins, we have laypeople who volunteer to come in and work with students in the simulation lab.  We work on communication, ethics, the things that nurses are expected to know about each patient and the way a nurse should think.” 

That includes learning skills to relate to a patient’s family. 

“A nurse may have to break bad news to the wife of a heart attack patient.  Patients die. In difficult situations, they have to be prepared to have those conversations,” Winiarski said. 

Practicing on the simulator mannequins helps students gain valuable experience in hands-on care, critical decision-making and teamwork.  In addition to Alice, the department’s high fidelity mannequins include two male mannequins and a toddler mannequin in a crib with pediatric monitors.  The mannequins breathe, blink their eyes, sigh, moan, talk and can be programmed to simulate different ailments or trauma.  Each has its own chart with nurse’s notes.  Students practice inserting IVs and other procedures, reading monitors and responding to unexpected complications.  There have been times when, through mistakes, the students lost the patient.

“You can’t make mistakes in areal clinical setting, so they practice here.  It’s been amazing to watch how upset they get when they lose apatient.  It’s a huge lesson and that’s the whole point of simulation. They learn the lesson in the lab.  It’s nerve wracking but by the time they get to the fourth level, they do a full Code Blue by themselves.” 

This was recently demonstrated when Louisiana’s new Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Jim Purcell toured Northwestern State’s simulation lab.  With just a few moments’ notice, Winiarski programmed a male mannequin for cardiac arrest. Her students responded and resuscitated the patient with no help from instructors. 

As for Alice, her nurses worked together to complete the successful breach delivery of a baby girl with a perfect Apgar score. They finished by following post-partum procedures for Alice.

Northwestern State’s Department of Nursing offers three degree programs, Associate of Science inNursing, Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing. The Shreveport Nursing Center is located at 1800 Line Avenue. For more information, visit the College of Nursing and Allied Health website at nursing.nsula.edu or find them on Facebook as NSULA-College of Nursing and Allied Health. 

Third semester nursing students Brooke Humphries, Tyler Todd, Stacey Moore and Lauren Sadka worked on Alice, a simulation mannequin in advanced labor, during a class at Northwestern State University’s Shreveport Nursing Center. Not show is student Emily Neal and instructor Mollie Moody.  Alice is one of several life-like mannequins that can be programmed to allow students to practice various medical scenarios as part of their training.

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