Photo by Sophia Crossley

Plastic patients test patience

By Sophia Crossley

The patient had her eyes closed and appeared to have vomited blood. It was announced that she will be taken to the intensive care unit for her hemorrhaging.
Whatcom Community College nursing instructor, Mary Lou Papich, facilitated this simulation.


Nursing students were split into two teams with three or four students each. The roles assigned were two patient care nurses and one medicine nurse per group.
In the Health Professions Education Building on the Whatcom campus, the students entered faux hospital rooms across the hall from one another and began identical patient scenarios. The focus for this simulation was cirrhosis of the liver.
The hall between the rooms serves as a command center, where technicians voice the mannequins and control the onset of their symptoms.
“Sometimes they [nursing students] don’t choose the right thing and we let this process go as if they are making this mistake in a clinical setting,” Papich said. “There’s a lot of critical thinking in nursing.”
Kailey Singleton is a nursing lab assistant and simulation technician.
“This is the simulation that all the second years still remember. They come and ask if we’ve given it to the first years yet,” Singleton said.
“She’s the one that makes everything work around here,” Nursing instructor Carol Whiteside said about Singleton.
“It’s for their learning, it’s not punitive,” Papich said.
Amy Niebruegge is a first year nursing student.
“That’s the first time we’ve had a tough one like that, and it was overwhelming,” Niebruegge said.
Karis Anderson is a first year nursing student and president for the Student Nurses of Whatcom club.
“I like them. They are very challenging, for different reasons. For me, it’s hard to remember everything when you’re not dealing with a real person,” Anderson said. “Of course I’d put on gloves when dealing with a patient with tuberculosis. But when you’re looking at a mannequin that’s not infected, there’s no risk.”
“He can cry, he can froth, he can have nasal drainage,” Singleton said of the mannequin.
Singleton pointed out his makeshift sweat glands and the dollar store makeup used to give the mannequin skin discoloration.
Students introduce themselves and identify their roles to the patient. As they begin their symptom assessment dialogue, the mannequin asks for a beer. Facilitators watch the nurses through a one-way mirror. Actors accompanied the mannequins, both playing the part of an enabling daughter to an alcoholic mother. Director of the nursing program, Annette Flanders, filled in for a missing actor.
At their meeting Thursday, the Student Nurses of Whatcom discussed future charitable projects and how they will celebrate graduation. One project was to set up a mentoring program between first and second year nursing students, with emphasis on the first quarter.
“It’s extremely front loaded, so it’s really hard first quarter,” Anderson said.
“The first few weeks of the first quarter are my least favorite, because they jam it full of lectures and all your labs to get your skills checked off,” Niebruegge said.
Students interested in nursing should go for it, Niebruegge said, but, “you need to be dedicated.”
The Student Nurses of Whatcom club meets about three times per quarter to discuss their ongoing projects and invite health care professionals as speakers to come to the meetings.
“It’s insightful into real nursing.” Anderson said.
Anderson has a bachelor’s degree in anatomy from Western Washington University and worked as a nursing assistant before starting the nursing program at Whatcom. She hopes to work in an emergency room in the future.
“It’s extremely challenging, but it’s worth it,” Anderson said about the nursing program.


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