Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008 | midnight
A diabetic arrives in the emergency room where students measure the patient's pulse and listen intently to his heart and breathing. Attempting to prescribe the correct medication, students are free to ask questions of the patient, who responds in kind.
But the scenario, while plausible, is not real. And the patient, while lifelike, is a mannequin.
Beginning next fall, nursing students at Nevada State College and UNLV will enhance their studies by using a host of mannequins able to speak and breathe. The new Shadow Lane lab will simulate the environment of a hospital — from labor-delivery to the emergency department, but it will also come with an increased cost.
The cost of the specialized learning will cost these students an extra $100 to $300 per course, which could mean an additional cost of $850 over the course of the four required nursing labs.
The increase was approved by the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents this month. Nevada State School of Nursing Interim Dean Shirlee Snyder said she had met with nursing students before the regents met, and 75 percent were supportive.
"Any time you raise the fees it's really difficult," Snyder said. "It was difficult for the Board of Regents, too, because of the economic times."
The students are willing to pay more for the state-of-the-art experience, she said.
"It's going to be cutting edge, very high-technology equipment," Snyder said. The mannequins "are kind of incredible. They have all the sounds — heart sounds, lung sounds, bowel sounds. They're very lifelike."
One of them can even give birth. Others range in age from babies to toddlers and adults of both sexes. While some of the mannequins can speak, others will be hooked up via microphone to an unseen instructor in another room. Students will have to ask the right questions of the patient to ascertain the correct medication.
The potential medical scenarios with the mannequins are numerous, Snyder said.
"It's going to require critical thinking on the part of the student," she said. "It's a way that you can have an urgent, potentially critical situation, but you can do it as a simulation. So if a student does make a mistake, they can learn from it and not harm anyone."
The lab will include many hospital-like environments with a range of standard equipment. The patients can be in a standard room or a pediatric unit. Other simulators will include just body parts, like arms, which students can use for honing certain skills.
The fee increase will cover lab supplies as well as a simulation technician and information technology technician to keep the equipment working. But Snyder said it also contains a sunset provision, meaning the fees would be re-evaluated in two years. In the meantime, officials will seek to find other revenue sources for the lab, including hospitals and health agencies that might want to use the facility for training.
Snyder said the college already has two high-tech mannequins, but students are looking forward to working with more and having increased lab time.
While UNLV and Nevada State students are tentatively slated to have separate labs, Snyder said an eventual goal is to have the nursing and UNR medical students work together. UNR students will also start using the lab next fall.
"Doctors and nurses have to work together on the job," Snyder said. "Why not do it while they're still in school?"
Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or firstname.lastname@example.org.