The nursing department is working to expand its simulation lab to help students receive hands-on experience while involved in the nursing program.

Linda Orchard, the simulation lab coordinator and a faculty member in the nursing department at BYU-Idaho, said the nursing department has made multiple changes this semester — the largest being that they have gone from being an associate’s degree program to a bachelor’s degree program.

Orchard said the main reasons for having a simulation lab are to help nursing students gain experience in a safe environment and to have the mindset of a nurse working in the field.

“The underlying principle in the simulation lab is that they can learn in a safe environment,” Orchard said.

Jami Larsen, a teacher’s aid for the simulation lab and a former nursing student, said she enjoyed being able to learn how to handle an emergency in a safe environment without the risk of harming a patient.

Orchard said there are three different times nurses think like a nurse: when they are actually in the process of helping a patient, when they look back on the experience and when they have to do that same procedure the next time.

“We want to help them get the best experience they possibly can,” Orchard said.

Orchard said students have to prepare before they take part in the simulation. They have different readings to do as well as videos to watch to fully prepare them for when they perform the procedure on a patient.

Orchard said students will know beforehand if they have to put a catheter in or insert an IV, therefore they can prepare before going to the lab.

Larsen said she continues to gain experience in the nursing field as she helps students learn what she experienced when she went through the program.

“I am relearning the basics with them,” Larsen said. “It really solidifies my skills a lot.”

Orchard said the department has a number of different mannequins, also called simulators, that are used in the lab, including two adult males and an adult female mannequin that can simulate giving birth, as well as a 5-year-old, a 1-year-old and a newborn simulator.

She said the mannequins can have fake blood and fake urine run through them, simulate a heart attack, problems with their breathing and have their vital signs change.

Orchard said they also have actors from the theater department come in to act as patients or family members of the patients. This will help make the simulations as close to reality as possible.

She said the actors act out being in pain, depressed or anxious.

Orchard said The National Council of State Boards of Nursing performed a study to see if a simulation lab or clinical work were more effective for nursing students. The results showed that when 50 percent of clinical work was substituted with simulation lab experience, there was no difference.

Orchard said simulation labs help students experience more of a variety of procedures because the teachers have control over what situations the students are put into. Teachers can be sure that students have certain experiences, whereas in a clinical, it is completely dependent on what the patients’ needs are.

“The new simulation lab upstairs will be really good for the students,” Larsen said. “It will be exactly like an ICU.”

Larsen said the simulation lab is important for the nursing students because they can have these experiences in a safe environment but, most importantly, under the direction and guidance of an experienced teacher.

“I know, as our students go out, it will bless thousands, more than thousands, just because they have been able to have this kind of experience,” Orchard said.