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Burn Trauma Simulation Prepares Nursing Students for Emergency Room Work

Feb 25, 2011

More video: Nursing student discusses her experience at Bellarmine
More video: About the nursing program

As student nurses worked to stabilize a patient burned in a meth lab explosion, the man’s brother charged into the emergency room, begging nurses to release the victim. Hospital security whisked the brother away as the nurses prepared to insert a breathing tube into their severely burned patient.

Nursing students treat their mock trauma victim.
While this was actually a simulation that took place in a model emergency room in Miles Hall on Bellarmine University’s campus, Carol Smith, an assistant nursing professor, said the experience would prepare her students for real-life trauma situations after they graduate in May.

“It’s great they get to go through this simulation to get this experience,” said Smith. “To let them get exposed to a situation that’s as realistic as you can get is invaluable.”

Nursing student Meagan Schmidt, from Louisville, thought the exercise went well, even if it got a little hectic. “When you’re learning in a book in the classroom, it gives you the perfect scenario,” she said. “When you’re in the real setting in a hospital, you find out real quickly that everything isn’t always a perfect situation, and that’s where your critical thinking comes in. This reiterates what you’ve learned in a classroom and prepares you for a new situation.”

Schmidt and the other students who took part in the simulation are about to complete Bellarmine’s one-year accelerated program, where students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field can make the transition to a nursing career. This year, there are 90 students in the accelerated program, which has nearly tripled in size over the last six years.

A student actor portays the patient's brother.
The simulation featured a patient who was disoriented from an explosion and unwilling to explain the nature of his burns. At a critical moment, the patient’s brother burst in, trying to get his wounded brother discharged from the hospital before police could investigate the explosion’s cause.

A student actor played the panicked brother, and also provided the voice of the patient, which was actually a sophisticated mannequin that the students have nicknamed Al Buterol, after a drug that treats lung diseases.

“The greatest thing about this mannequin is that students can make mistakes and it will actually die like a human being would die,” said Smith. “To see the mannequin’s physiological changes based upon what they do is unbelievable. When you put the tube in the throat to start breathing for them, it reacts like a real human being would react. If everything’s not okay, the mannequin will show them that everything’s not okay.” [Read more about Al Buterol in the Summer 2009 issue of Bellarmine Magazine]

Major Tony King, a retired drug enforcement agent now working for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, advised staff from Bellarmine’s Donna and Allan Lansing School of Nursing & Health Sciences on how to make the simulation more realistic, since it involved a criminal act. “A lot of times in an emergency situation, you’ll see total chaos,” he said. “It’s very helpful for students to have experience with that.” King also played the roles of an investigating police officer and a hospital security guard, who was called to remove the patient’s brother from the emergency room.

Hope Jones, who directed the nursing simulation, said today’s successful exercise is an important part of preparing students for the nursing jobs they’ll soon begin seeking. “They get a chance to come here in a safe environment and learn about what they can do for a patient,” she said. “If they make a mistake they can learn from that mistake and no patients are hurt.”

Nursing students and faculty observe the burn trauma simulation in Miles Hall.