Nursing students apply skills at SUNY Plattsburgh simulation lab

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 3:30 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Nursing is an intensive, hands-on field. But before going to work, there’s only so much on-the-job experience they can get. Now, students studying nursing at SUNY Plattsburgh are getting more first-hand experiences in the school’s simulation lab.

The second floor of Hawkins Hall at SUNY Plattsburgh is home to one of the college’s newest investments. A new simulation lab allows nursing students to get real clinical with fake patients.

“It’s given the real feel kind of experience without the consequences of messing up in the hospital,” said Isaac Sanchez, a junior in the program. He spends time in the lab both for class credit and just for practice. “It’s really beneficial because I can come in here more relaxed, ask questions when I need to.”

It’s one-on-one time with his professor where he can get immediate feedback and practice skills like child-birthing, pediatric care, or diagnosing patients. He says skills like inserting a catheter will benefit him when he hits the real world. And that’s exactly what those in charge of the lab want.

“It really is unfair for us to put a novice student in a high-risk situation,” said Patricia Shinn, department chair of SUNY Plattsburgh’s nursing program, and who helped bring the simulation lab to life last fall.

While students will continue to also practice in real-world settings, Shinn says they’re limited in how they can help. “That doesn’t afford our students the opportunity to do the critical thinking and the decision making that they need to have experience before they graduate and get into practice,” she said.

Shinn believes simulations can and should fill that practice gap and that legislation in Albany seeks to address that need. A bill that has already passed the state Senate would allow for up to 30% of clinical hours nurses need to be fulfilled in simulated settings. “It would definitely let us get that high-risk piece over to our students,” she said.

The clinical hour flexibility could also allow the school to bring in more nursing students and get students to area hospitals faster, Shinn said.

And for Sanchez, a self-described hands-on learner, it will provide the confidence he needs before starting in a real hospital room. “It gets you in better practice and better habits so you’re less likely to make those mistakes in the real world,” he said.