New lab brings nursing students closer to real experiences
City native Alishia Green has always known she wanted to be a nurse.
“Everybody in my family’s a nurse,” explained the 24-year-old, who started work on her associate degree in nursing (ADN) at Forsyth Technical Community College in August. “I’ve worked as a CNA for like seven years and I just figured it was natural for me to do it.”
Green, a mother of one, came to the community college at the right time; Forsyth Tech officially opened its Health Technologies interdisciplinary simulation lab this week. The 900-square-foot lab, housed in Bob Greene Hall, features state of the art technology, from lifelike manikins that simulate all the symptoms – and commentary – of real life patients, to complex monitoring systems and equipment that rivals that of area hospitals. Green said working with the mannequins, who are capable of breath sounds, wheezes, coughs and even moaning in pain, has been eye opening for her.
“It’s something different that I’ve never seen before,” commented the aspiring nurse practitioner. “ It’s more hands-on, and I learn better hands-on because I don’t want to get out there and hurt somebody. With this, I can think critically.”
Dean of Health Technologies Dr. Bonnie Pope said the lab is a dream come true for Forsyth Tech and the more than 800 students in 16 different degree programs it serves. The school has the largest community college-based health technologies program in the state. She joined Forsyth Tech President Dr. Gary Green (no relation to Alishia Green) and others for the ribbon-cutting Tuesday.
“We truly believe this is going to take us to the next level of preparing our healthcare students,” Pope said.
The $125,000 lab is an important enhancement that will allow the school to prepare its students for the workplace like never before, said Pope.
Instructors can program and control the symptoms and reactions of the “patients,” challenging their students to act efficiently and effectively to address problems as they arise. The exercises are taped so the students can review their performance. ADN student Debra Kriner gave the program high marks.
“It teaches you how to problem solve and prioritize on what you’re going to do,” said the University of Georgia alumna. “They’re killing the patient in front of you, so it’s very reaction based.”
Former operating room nurse Joyce Glass-Sweeter, the ADN program’s namesake, said the simulation lab is a far cry from the hectic environment where she cut her teeth on as a nursing student over 50 years ago.
“I think it’s a fantastic, fantastic idea,” said Glass-Sweeter, who served on the school’s Board of Trustees for 25 years. “We didn’t have this kind of set up when I was going through nurses’ training back in ’57. We worked on real patients.”
Dr. George Podgorny, who practiced emergency medicine for 45 years, said technology has changed the face of medicine.
“Technology is now driving the practice of medicine – there is no question – all of the major developments are technological,” commented the 79 year-old. “…We are gaining a tremendous amount from the technology and are able to do things that we could not before.”
Podgorny, whose lengthy career included stints at Wake Forest Baptist, Novant Forsyth and Moses Cone, said he created an early version of the lab’s manikin himself more than 40 years ago. Though it wasn’t as high tech as today’s models, Podgorny said his mannequin was a valuable teaching tool that helped him to demonstrate difficult to master procedures such as inserting chest tubes and central lines.
Charlie Mills, who is in his fourth semester in the ADN program, said he made the decision to embark on a second career after losing his father to leukemia seven years ago.
“It was during that time that I kind of felt like there was something that I needed to do different,” related Mills, who also breeds alpacas. “…This is kind of a new spark, a new path. I learned to do things with my father I thought I never would do.”
Mills, who holds degrees from Wake Forest University and UNC Charlotte, said he is grateful for the technology that is available to today’s nursing students. He believes the presence of the lab will give him the confidence and the experience he needs to perform well in the field.
“It helps with your methodology,” he said. “…A lot of it is simply trying to interpret the patient, trying to interpret what they’re saying to you, because a lot of times, what they’re saying and what you see can be two very different things.”
The new lab will not only serve the school and its students, but all those who benefit from their enhanced expertise, Pope said.
“We have a great demand in our community,” she noted. “In Forsyth County, healthcare is the number one employer, so we really do feel like we’re doing a service to this community to be able to provide highly qualified students … to go into the healthcare service.”