Simulated hospital gives nurses realistic training
Clad in pajamas and a Diamondbacks cap, the “patient” lay still in the bed as Banner Health registered nurse Stacey Fuller looked on and answered questions from an inquisitive mother worried about her son’s asthma attack.
Fuller determined her “patient” displayed good vital signs — even without a heart, brain and other functioning organs.
A recent nursing school graduate, Fuller was interacting with one of 80 high-tech mannequins at the Banner Simulation Medical Center in Mesa, where some 1,500 registered nurses train a few days annually.
The mannequins give nurses the chance to practice their skills in a real-time setting before working at one of Banner’s medical centers because they simulate breathing, bleeding, giving birth and even speaking.
“At first, it’s odd having these pretend conversations. But you get used to it and you get to practice conversations that you would actually have with patients and their parents,” said Fuller, whose specialty is pediatrics. “I like to talk to people and explain things, so I think it’s a lot of fun.”
The 55,000-square-foot facility is among the largest in the world and gives new hires an opportunity to work out the kinks and adjust to any policies and procedures specific to Banner. The Mesa location is one of Banner’s two simulation centers in the Valley. The other is in central Phoenix.
The center has many of the same departments found in an actual hospital, such as an intensive-care unit, operating room, emergency department and pediatrics.
Recently, the simulation program received accreditation from the Society for Simulation in Healthcare in five areas of expertise, becoming one of three organizations in the world to achieve this status. Last year, the program was accredited by the American College of Surgeons.
Being placed in real scenarios has given Fuller a better idea of her strengths, like patient interaction, and areas she needs to work on, like time management.
“I’m practicing getting the timing down,” Fuller said. “What I like is that Banner hones their nurses’ education and is supportive of that. Other places don’t do that.”
As Fuller made her rounds, registered nurse and simulation specialist Vickie Hawkins sat in a control room in the pediatrics department. Here, she can watch nurses interact with patients and evaluate their performance. Nurses have the opportunity to see themselves at work by viewing the videos.
Hawkins also plays multiple roles, depending on the scenario. With Fuller’s asthma patient, she was the voice of the mother. In other situations she can play the patient or physician.
The simulation center gives new graduates the chance to function independently — a luxury that they typically don’t get to experience in training, Hawkins said. It also gives veteran nurses new to Banner exposure to situations that they may not have experienced despite their years in the field.
“We allow them to make decisions and mistakes because, unfortunately, mistakes are how we learn,” said Hawkins, who has worked at the center since it opened in 2009.
However, nurses aren’t the only ones gaining knowledge. Simulation director Karen Josey described a scenario that simulated post-labor hemorrhaging. It required taking a mannequin to Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert and putting everyone involved, including representatives from the local blood bank, through the paces.
A few days later, doctors at Gateway repeated that scenario. But this time, it was for real.
“Everyone knew exactly what they had to do and they could do it quickly because they had just gone through it,” Josey said.
The training center is a far cry from when Josey, as a registered nurse in training years ago, practiced inserting IV’s by using oranges.
“We immerse them in a clinical environment so they get that complexity,” Josey said. “It’s about how realistic we can make it.”