Since 2007, nursing students at Queens have practiced their skills by working with robotic patients in the Presbyterian School of Nursing's Patient Simulation Lab. The hands-on exercises help them put concepts safely into practice as they administer medications, assess symptoms and treat their electronic patients.
A recent renovation and expansion of the Fifth Street Campus lab is giving students even more opportunities to develop practical skills they'll use daily as professional nurses.
Three new patient simulation areas were added, allowing for more sessions and individual practice time to give students more experience working with patients.
Before the improvements, students sometimes participated in simulation sessions in hallways or had to wait for open simulation time slots because the demand for the practice was so high.
"They really want that, so when they do go to the hospital and have live patients, they feel more confident," said Melinda Armstrong, lab coordinator for the school. "It's a safe place to make mistakes, and a place where they can learn from them."
In fact, students have sometimes given their mechanical charges the wrong medications, resulting in the robots' "deaths," and providing teaching opportunities about the repercussions of mistakes in care.
The robotic men, women, children and even babies that the nursing students care for act much like real people, with pulses, heartbeats, even voices provided by course instructors. Students often get emotionally attached to the mock patients, which is also good practice for real-life nursing.
The improved and expanded, seven-patient lab also has three state-of-the-art patient beds donated by Linet, a Czech Republic-based company that recently opened offices in Charlotte. The school will give the company feedback on the beds' performance to help Linet improve the equipment.
Linet is also donating 10 beds to furnish and expand the school's Nursing Skills Lab, where students practice patient-handling skills, such as feeding patients and making beds with patients in them. Using the high-tech equipment instead of the stretchers the beds replaced gives students real-world experience in operating the types of devices they'll use as nurses.
The renovation, which took three months, also included remodeling of existing rooms and the addition of a Primary Care Lab, a model of a doctor's office, complete with a patient exam table and a video camera to record practice for professors' feedback.
The simulation lab gets heavy use from Presbyterian Hospital staff, as well as from Queens' students. It's so popular that word of the lab reaches people and institutions far removed from the university. In fact, the school gets requests for tours from across the country.