Nursing hopefuls get sneak peek at Simulation Day

Once a year, Southern’s nursing school opens its doors, giving a select group of high school students a peek inside a program that many believe is the university’s strongest asset.

Southern’s College of Nursing and Allied Health is among the top 10 producers of black nurses in the U.S. It’s a highly selective program in which only 27 percent of applicants are accepted.

Some of those nursing hopefuls were at the nursing school Friday morning for the annual tradition of Simulation Day. It’s when Southern nursing professors and students show high school students what they would be walking into should they be accepted to the program.

This year, students from Glen Oaks and Zachary high schools crowded into the third floor of the nursing school as assistant professor Trudy Williams demonstrated how human patient simulators, ranging in price from $15,000 to $150,000, help nurses learn.

The life-size, robotic mannequins talk, breathe, bleed, emit a pulse, have beating hearts and turn blue in their extremities among other functions, including some that can actually give birth — pushing a life-size baby mannequin through a birthing canal.

Williams said it’s all part of the process of presenting aspiring nurses with as many lifelike scenarios as possible before they enter the workforce.

On Friday, Williams crouched next to one of the school’s most expensive simulators — the Cadillac of simulators, she said — as its breathing became labored and it started emitting wheezing noises from the chest.

Williams explained that nursing students would be able to check a number of vital signs on the simulator before determining the “patient” is suffering from congestive heart failure. At that point, nurses could give the patient oxygen or fluids to alleviate some of the symptoms, she said.

Across the room, assistant professors Sharon Coulter and Vinnie Marcell demonstrated how each of the nursing schools simulation rooms are set up to look like real hospital rooms.

One particular patient has cigarettes, a cellphone and other personal effects on a bedside table. Coulter explains that the cigarettes are obviously a red flag that a nurse would have to keep away from the patient to prevent someone from sneaking a smoke in a hospital bathroom.

But she also points out some of the other pitfalls in the room, including prescription pills and a wallet full of cash nearby, that a nurse would have to take from a patient and put in a secure place in a real-life situation.

“We like to incorporate these things into the experiment to see if the students can pick up on them,” she said. “Nurses bear a lot of responsibility.”

The tour concluded with a few dozen students making stops inside the nursing school’s Pediatric Lab, Intensive Care Unit, Birthing Center and Fundamentals Lab.

Simulation Day is a recruiting event, but it’s also a glimpse into one of Southern’s most sought-after programs.

“It’s a bit of a surprise, but some people in our community don’t know that Southern has a school of nursing,” said Jacqueline Hill, chairwoman of the undergraduate nursing program. “We’ve been around for 20 years. I guess we are the best-kept secret. We use this day to let people know we are here.”

Hill explains that any student interested in pursing a career in nursing has to be serious. Only 80 out of the 250 to 300 students who apply to join the clinical component of the nursing school make the cut each semester, she said.