Donation means better program for nursing students at VIU

Vancouver Island University is building a state-of-the-art nursing simulation lab.

Simulation dolls are part of a new nursing lab at Vancouver Island University. The dolls can mimic common symptoms and scenarios nurses might encounter in a clinical setting.

Simulation dolls are part of a new nursing lab at Vancouver Island University. The dolls can mimic common symptoms and scenarios nurses might encounter in a clinical setting.

Vancouver Island University is getting a state-of-the-art nursing simulation lab to boost the competitiveness of the nursing program and better prepare students for work in the field.

The lab, which officials hope to have ready by next September, was made possible by two major donations – Windsor Plywood gave $50,000 and local philanthropist Sidney Sharman donated $350,000 last week.

The simulation lab, to go in an underused classroom, will include three rooms outfitted like hospital rooms, including equipment, a bed and a ‘patient’, as well as a debriefing room.

The ‘patient’ is a simulation doll worth about $70,000 – a lifelike mannequin that can replicate many of the common symptoms and scenarios nurses may encounter in a clinical setting.

“They can cough, sneeze, spit up, breathe, their hearts thump, they can become feverish, they can become cold and clammy,” said Carol Stuart, dean of health and human services.

The university already has several of the dolls, but the department couldn’t use them to full effectiveness because there is no secure space for them.

With the $400,000, the department can buy another doll, bringing the total to five for students to practise on.

All three nursing programs – health-care assistant, practical nursing and bachelor of nursing – will have access to the simulation lab.

Stuart said the lab is an important step between learning the material and practising on a real patient during a work experience placement.

“You can put them through just about anything you can imagine in a hospital,” she said. “When you have a doll that can replicate these symptoms, how much easier it is for a student to deal with a doll knowing there is no risk – no life, no pain implications for a real person.”

Instructors focus on hands-on technical skills, but also on the student’s interpersonal skills.

“What you really want to focus on is the thought process of the student and how the student responds to the patient,” said Stuart.

She said the simulation lab will also put VIU’s nursing programs on par with other Island institutions – the University of Victoria, North Island College and Camosun College already have similar labs.

Joanne Maclaren, Vancouver Island Health Authority’s manager of professional practice, said the lab is a great opportunity for students to take theory learned and practise it in a safe environment, as well as gain exposure to things they might not encounter regularly in a hospital setting.

The $350,000 is Sharman’s latest donation to the nursing department – in 2009 he donated $1 million to support annual scholarships for fourth year nursing students.

“I think there’s no better profession to support than nursing,” he said in a press release. “After all, everyone needs a nurse, from the minute they’re born, to the minute they die.

“If I can help ensure Vancouver Island has some of the best trained nurses by supporting this lab, then I think that’s an excellent investment.”

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