The New “Patients” of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences

The School of Nursing and Health Sciences has four new participants, and while they may look like fellow students or professors, they aren’t even human.

La Salle’s state-of-the-art Interprofessional Simulation Center is home to four lifelike simulators—adult, maternity, child, and infant—that can replicate the bodily functions of actual human beings. These “patients” might sound eerily similar to androids in a science fiction thriller, but when it comes to getting a practical, hands-on education, they’re essential.

The simulator patients present students in the Nursing, Nutrition, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Public Health programs with scenarios they will find once they enter the workforce.

Each simulator comes equipped with a full menu of replicated functions, including: tears, sweat, wheezing, pupil dilation, urine output, pulse points in the feet and legs, oxygen saturation, and heart rate. Students can listen to heart, lung, and abdominal sounds, and administer IV medication and fluids. The most advanced of the simulators—the SimMan® 3G—can replicate both neurological and physiological symptoms, such as seizures.

The simulators are controlled from the Center’s control room by Simulation and Technology Coordinator Stephanie Blumenfeld, R.N, CHSE. Blumenfeld oversaw a disaster simulation exercise at the Center, allowing students to experience a potential mass casualty crisis.

The training scenario Blumenfeld described—in which students were expected to manage a sick patient before calling emergency services for support—is frightening but all too relevant in today’s world, where natural disasters and other large-scale catastrophes pose a constant threat.

Blumenfeld said: “Together with faculty, we created an environment of a large outdoor festival. Students were told they were working as volunteer nurses in the first-aid tent with only basic medications and supplies. The patient [simulator] told the students that while eating lunch in a picnic area, a low flying plane sprayed a distinctive smelling liquid over everyone. The patient first presented with slightly elevated vital signs and mild respiratory distress. Over about ten minutes, the patient deteriorated.”

The simulators were programmed to exhibit watery eyes, red skin, and blistering burns, and students were expected to wear proper equipment to protect against the unknown agent.

“This scenario offers the students an example of caring for a patient outside of the hospital setting, as well as participating in a mass casualty situation. The students apply what they have learned in class to care for the patient,” Blumenfeld added.

Daniella Lau, ’17, described a simulation she participated in, one that will most likely be more typical for the senior nursing major once she enters the workforce. Lau said: “I had a patient [simulator] who had diabetes. This patient was very persistent about eating chocolate cake. When you have diabetes you have to follow a certain diet, so my partner and I were able to do a little patient teaching, which in real life happens a lot.”

The Interprofessional Simulation Center opened with the goal of creating a more cross-disciplinary environment for students in all Nursing and Health Sciences programs.

Its open, flexible space fosters interaction between students, faculty, and patients, mirroring the kind of teamwork needed in an environment like a busy and chaotic emergency room. It is also home to a debriefing room, where students and faculty meet to discuss their “patients,” and a pediatric room that includes the child and infant simulators. Thanks to a generous grant from the Green Family Foundation, an additional space has been created to simulate home, hospital, and outpatient experiences for students caring for individuals with physical disabilities.

The Institute of Medicine has stressed the importance of an interactive education. La Salle’s nursing students will learn when a speech-language pathologist needs to be called, for example, or when a nutritionist can help with patient feeding. Public Health students will become aware of the health risks that affect major populations.

“What we do won’t be effective if speech won’t work with us, or if nutrition won’t work with us. The list goes on and on,” Lau said. “It’s cool knowing that what you do is important, but when you work together as a team, you can make that one person so much better.” Lau noted that she has made many friends—and future professional contacts—outside of her nursing major in the other health sciences majors.

Kathleen Czekanski, Ph.D., R.N., CNE, Dean of La Salle’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, said, “The goal [of interprofessional care] is care that is safe, effective, patient-centered, evidence based, timely, efficient, and equitable. We know that our graduates from our programs are expected to enter the workforce ready to practice effective teamwork and team-based care, so this requires that we must engage our students in interactive learning with each other while they are here with us.”

Czekanski added: “All healthcare professionals have to work together.”



La Salle undergraduate nursing students have achieved an 87.66 percent firsttime NCLEX-RN® exam pass rate for the 2015-2016 testing period, a 4.3 percent increase from the same period last year.

“The Nursing Program has implemented a series of evidence-based measures over the past several years to ensure we are graduating students who are not only prepared for the rigorous exam, but also for the requirements of the nursing profession,” said Kathleen Czekanski, Ph.D., R.N., CNE, Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Czekanski additionally credits the 2016 nursing graduates with this accomplishment and their commitment to prepare for and succeed on this exam. The Nursing Program continues to be fully approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).