‘Opportunities offered by the simulation lab allow all students a safe space to gain experience in unique aspects of nursing’
The Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex at Ryerson University opened last fall and along with it, a high-tech simulation lab and state of the art technology. Ryerson’s School of Nursing received a gift of just over $1 million from the FDC Foundation to update the existing labs and simulation rooms.
In the complex, students have access to replicas of hospital wards filled with equipment like nursing stations, wheelchairs and hospital beds. Down the hall, they have lab rooms where students can participate and observe while lab technicians control mannequins to practise real-life scenarios.
In each lab, two to four students will diagnose and treat a mannequin while lab technicians speak through from a room next door. The mannequins can breathe, cry, move their eyes, and can create other responses that would simulate a real treatment environment.
The scenario is recorded and streamed back so that the group can debrief once it’s done to figure out what was done right and what could be done differently.
The nursing program at Ryerson uses this unique experience of the simulation labs not for testing or evaluation, but as an opportunity to learn and make mistakes in a safe environment.
Daria Romaniuk, the associate director of nursing and a professor at the School of Nursing, instructs first-year nursing students who are involved with the simulation lab.
“Hands-on experience is always essential because nursing is a practice profession, so students have to start learning those skills and you can’t learn them by just reading them; you have to do them,” she said. “They have to think on their feet and use what they have learned to respond to the client in that situation.”
Sara Richie, a simulation co-ordinator at Ryerson, notes how important it is that the mannequins are realistic.
“They allow us to do more high-risk scenarios where their safety and health potential isn’t in jeopardy,” she said.”If a mistake is made, it’s a great learning opportunity.”
The scenarios that students are put through stress the importance of communication and relationship-building between nurses and patients.
“Building relationships becomes a big foundation in their learning,” Richie said. “We hope that it is solidified in the debrief itself, so they walk away with a really clear idea of what the expectations are and they can carry that into their practice.”
Merveille Ndondo, a simulation co-ordinator at Ryerson, says the simulation can provide opportunities to learn when specialized placements aren’t available.
“If you have a crashing cardiac patient, you aren’t going to be able to simulate that in a placement,” Ndondo said. “In the lab, you can manipulate the vitals from the control room in real-time and you can see someone crashing and their oxygen is going down and the students have to figure out what to do.”
Parmeet Kahlon, a fourth-year Ryerson nursing student, says it is essential for students to practise their knowledge and skills, and the simulation labs give them a chance to do that.
“For instance, we recently had an amazing simulation with a pediatric patient, and I was able to focus on applying and further developing my therapeutic communication skills at a developmentally appropriate level,” she said. “Since placements such as pediatrics are less frequent, opportunities offered by the simulation lab allow all students a safe space to gain experience in unique aspects of nursing.”