Clothes are an indicator of profession and personality. They can set us apart from others. Blue scrubs worn by nursing students at BYU-Idaho are a definite standout and statement of profession. But what courses require students to wear scrubs?
If you see a student in blue scrubs at BYU-I, they are likely enrolled in a med surg, maternal child nursing or psychology course on campus. Some classrooms in the John L. Clarke Building have been set up to look like mock hospital rooms.
Students enrolled in nursing or medical courses campus-wide are required to participate in class labs where they respond to scripted medical scenarios using mannequin patients. As students prepare to compete in nursing programs and then in the nursing field, labs like this create unique, hands-on learning opportunities for the future.
In total, the Nursing Department at BYU-I offers eight clinical classes that involve simulations and clinical visits. On a student’s path toward gaining a degree in nursing, they will be required to take all of these, which range in subject matter from mental health nursing to maternal child nursing. These are taken alongside a course that teaches theory and skills so students can be prepared before they enter simulations or clinical.
Professor Kathleen Barnhill, coordinator of the simulation program on campus, explained how upon first implementing simulations into the school curriculum there was a question of whether clinicals, or time spent shadowing in a live hospital, and simulations were equally beneficial for students.
However, after instructing and viewing studies that validate the benefits of simulations, Barnhill believes they can actually be more useful than clinicals.
Simulations allow students to have controlled exposure to labor and delivery, postpartum hemorrhage and cardiac scenarios.
“Simulations are extremely helpful,” said Chantelle Larsen, a junior studying nursing. “They provide a realistic yet safe environment to learn and grow. Although intimidating at first, (simulations) help hold you accountable and allow you to learn from others.”
Without simulations, student exposure to medical scenarios would be limited to live patient health needs at a hospital during the time of clinical visits. In a student’s time taking clinical courses, they may never see the delivery of a child, even if their desired career path demands it. Simulations guarantee students this experience.
In the simulations, perfection in poise, wisdom and action is not expected. In a class, one of Barnhill’s students was tasked with preparing a fake patient for a C-section surgery. He would have to complete this preparation before the “doctor” arrived. The student, having never performed this task, started exercising skills he learned in class.
Some of the basics he had memorized, but under the stress of the time, he was only able to complete one of many tasks. Another course might have given him a low grade for this, but in the clinical and simulation courses, the nurse-in-training received feedback from his instructor that might help him in the future.
“Problem solving and critical thinking really is what we’re trying to get at in simulation,” Barnhill said. “I can structure those simulations so that they have to critically think, and there is not one second of downtime. What critical thinking is, is not replicating the exact same thing and then doing it perfectly the next time. It’s to take the information that you learned from that and be able to apply it to a different situation and be able to function appropriately.”
Barnhill stressed that the courses are not meant to trick students, but to help them face challenges they will see in a long career in nursing. The simulations, clinical trials and companion courses serve to teach the pupil how to swim before diving into the deep water of the medical field.
Challenging students in a fast-paced, critical environment without the consequences of operating in a hospital helps students learn from their mistakes instead of dreading them.
“They may not feel totally comfortable ever in clinical because it’s a constant learning experience,” Barnhill said. “I don’t know that we ever expect students to just be totally comfortable and confident where they are, because then we’re probably not challenging them to become what we want them to become.”