Bringing health care challenges to life

By Kaye Coholan

The faculty of nursing’s simulation lab is set to acquire two new high-fidelity mannequins for students to poke, prod and practice on, thanks to recently announced funding from the province.

A $300,000 grant from the ministry of advanced education and technology will be used to enhance the University of Calgary’s Clinical Simulation Learning Centre, which for the past two years has allowed student nurses the opportunity to practice their clinical skills before going out into the real world.

It’s this safe environment that makes the simulation lab vital for nursing students, said CSLC director Pat Morgan.

“Students are given the opportunity to integrate concepts learned in theory classes and apply them to simulated clinical environments,” she said.

The new high-fidelity mannequins will bring the centre’s grand-total to seven, including one newborn, two child-sized versions and four adults. The mannequins mimic humans in a number of ways, such as speaking and breathing, and they have several features including a pulse, blood pressure and lung sounds.

The CSLC also houses three high-fidelity simulation suites, three debriefing rooms, 10 moderate-fidelity mannequins and a number of training objects such as false arms used to practice injections.

But it’s not all about needles and stethoscopes.

One professor is using Imogene, a mannequin dressed as a sex trade worker, to increase community health engagement in her class, which can be a challenge as student nurses often have their sights set on getting into the hospital.

“I know what it looks like in real life because I started my career in emergency, but the question was how to bring that to the classroom,” said assistant professor Candace Lind.

Imogene wears a sparkly top, fishnet stockings, a short skirt and is bruised and bloody with track marks on her arm. She’s a 31-year-old who was sexually abused by her uncle when she was a teenager, before having a backyard abortion, becoming addicted to morphine and getting kicked out of her house.

Lind, who worked with instructor Aliyah Mawji to write Imogene’s history, said the goal was to bring to life some course concepts such as social justice and the effects of poverty.

“Although Imogene is pretend, she’s based on parts of real stories,” Lind said. “She’s real in the sense that she’s a whole bunch of people wrapped into one.”

Imogene also teaches students about compassion and how to identify the values and assumptions that may affect how they deal with the people they encounter.

“We need to treat each person like a human being no matter how they look, or where they’ve been, or what they’ve done,” Lind said.

The course topic of community health is very important to nursing, she added.

“The aim is to prevent really terrible outcomes that are sometimes irreversible,” she said. “It’s one area where nurses can have an impact on society.”

Lind said Imogene has been an effective tool that’s been well-received by students.

“The beautiful thing about simulation is we can turn back the hands of time,” she said.

“So for a real Imogene out there, we could have an impact and save a life,” Lind added. “It’s a really different way of looking at nursing.”

The ministry of advanced education and technology’s aim is to provide students with access to the most modern equipment possible.

“Technology is improving the way health care professionals learn and prepare for real-world situations,” said minister of advanced education and technology Greg Weadick in a press release.

The funding to the CSLC was provided as part of the health workforce action plan, a cross-industry initiative from Alberta Health Services, the ministry of employment and immigration, and the ministry of advanced education and technology to enhance the delivery of health programming.

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