04-04-12-nursing.jpgWith more than 35 years as a critical care nurse, Mary Hall knows a few things about the profession and what is expected of nurses. When she was offered the opportunity to put together Methodist University’s nursing program — from scratch — she jumped at the chance.

Ask her if it is all a tad overwhelming and she doesn’t mention the stress or the work involved. Instead her face lights up as she talks about the many wonderful things she is looking forward to once the new building opens and how humbled — and thrilled — she is to have an opportunity like this.

“I try hard not to think about how huge this is, because it is just so big,” said Hall. “But the chance to build a program like this and to design and work in a facility of this nature — that’s exciting!”

It is no wonder Hall is excited. A tour of the partially completed facility reveals a well thought-out plan for hands on simulation-based training, to accompany all the book work that nursing students face, efficient high-tech equipment, an Americans With Disability Act-compliant and earth friendly establishment designed to benefit the more than 30 nursing students who will make up the first graduating class when the doors open in September.

The program has invested in six high-fidelity mannequins (two adults, a child and an infant) in addition to a number of medium fidelity mannequins. Not only will students learn to take blood and change colostomy bags, they can deliver babies, monitor medication doses and perform minor procedures on the mannequins which are programmed to respond appropriately to the care they are given. Instructors can program relapses, allergic reactions and other common, but unanticipated reactions to treatment.

Drawing on her experience, Hall presented a few examples of how the technology could be used to better train the nursing students.

“I’ve seen many new nurses in my time, I know what is expected of them and this program is designed to give them the skills they need to succeed and provide good care when they graduate,” said Hall. “There is a big difference in reading about something and actually putting it into practice. We want to send our graduates out with a higher level of hands-on experience.”

Say a nursing student is about to change shifts. It is 2 a.m. and they’re tired. They stop to chat with another nurse before leaving. The building is wired with 360 cameras that are monitored all the time.

“We can see this and using the technology between the mannequins and the computers so that we can simulate having one of their patients fall out of bed,” said Hall. “It will show them what it is like to have to function under stress while you are exhausted.”

While the nursing program is mainly concerned with producing nurses, there are plenty of opportunities to get creative and include other departments for some mutually beneficial training. The facility will be run like a hospital, complete with a reception area, which will be manned and run by health-administration students. The mannequins’ capabilities of exhibiting a variety of symptoms provide potential for a joint training exercise between the fitness training students and nursing students (picture an athlete injured during a game). Other scenarios include disaster relief (think last year’s tornadoes) and will include Methodist University’s Physician Assistant’s Program students.

The ADA-compliant building strengthens the program’s appeal to another local population, heroes who have already served once but are looking to continue making a difference. “The Wounded Warrior Program transitions soldiers and one of the programs they are offered is pre-nursing,” said Hall. “The circular driveway and the way the building is designed make this a safe and accessible facility for everyone.”

The N.C. Board of Nursing says the state is facing of shortage of more than 8,000 nurses right now and predicts a shortage of 32,000 nurses by the year 2020. Numbers like that make it clear that programs like this will make a difference — a difference in the state’s economy, education system and most importantly in the lives that will be saved because we have a source of well educated, well trained professionals.

Find out more about this and other programs at Methodist University at www.methodist.edu.

Photo: The new nursing building is scheduled for completion next month. 

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