How technology is helping train nursing students

article and photos by Jamie Besel

Bedside alarms begin to sound as the infant begins to cry in distress.  Something is wrong.  Vital signs are quickly assessed as the nurses move fast to stabilize the little patient.  A crisis is averted.

Except the above scenario didn’t take place in a hospital; rather, it took place at the College of Nursing (CON) Montana State University-Bozeman, Billings Campus with a lifelike infant and a room full of nursing students.  In the process of completing their Bachelor of Nursing degrees, the students, enrolled in the junior level course Nursing Care of Childbearing Family, receive one-on-one training with the SimBaby, a life-size infant manikin that aids in training in all aspects of infant care.

“The SimBaby helps prepare students for real-life situations in a safe learning environment,” says Bobbie Smith, a CON Course Lecturer and Nurse Manager for Maternity and Labor & Delivery at a local hospital.  “I wish I had this when I was learning as a student.”

“Technology is huge in helping us educate nursing students,” asserts Teresa Wicks, MSN, RN, the Course Coordinator and Assistant Teaching Professor at MSU-Bozeman CON.  “We are able to simulate all kinds of situations and walk students through emergency situations and proper procedures.”

In the background, the SimBaby is clearly audible with its cries and grunts.  And it wiggles and moves, similar to a small infant.  The students take turns, listening to normal and abnormal heart and lung sounds while checking the monitor displaying vital signs.  “Since real babies are so tiny and the risk of serious harm if a student makes a mistake, the SimBaby provides a safe environment for students to practice real life scenarios where they can do nursing interventions and pass medications,” says Susan L. Ahrens, Ph.D., R.N., Clinical Professor and Campus Director, CON Billings Campus.

“This is the first class using the SimBaby,” says Wicks.  “We are excited for the opportunity to use this type of technology in our classroom in order to help prepare students for the clinical setting.”  Each semester, 40 students will be able to utilize the technology offered by SimBaby, and a SimMom.

“Every student commented that Sim is the best experience to get them ready for clinical as well as reinforce what they are learning in class,” says Wicks.