Faculty from the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan know the value of students making mistakes while treating patients, but when the patients aren’t real it’s a better scenario for everyone involved. This led to the building of a new state-of-the-art Clinical Learning Center which houses six simulation rooms with high-fidelity mannequins that act just like real patients, even capable of bleeding, vomiting, and giving birth.

Some students find the mannequins intimidating because of the things they can do, but they can’t deny the valuable skills they are gaining from the real-life issues being simulated. The mannequins can even simulate high-risk issues that don’t typically occur in a hospital setting, preparing students for how to react in emergency situations. The nursing school has a team of specially trained simulation instructors who sit behind a one-way mirror with screens in front of them, using wireless controls to prompt any possible physiological response in the mannequin.

The major benefit of learning clinical skills through mannequin simulations is that students can learn by trial and error without harming a real-life patient. Students remember the cases where they screw up, and learning from those simulations builds confidence and comfort when working in hospital settings. Many students don’t experience life-threatening or advanced care skills in their clinical rotations, but with mannequin simulations students can practice suctioning secretions from the trachea, electrically shocking the heart into starting again, and administering intravenous drugs.

University of Michigan is far from being the only nursing school that uses mannequin simulations in their curriculum, but they are the only school that allows all undergraduates, even first-year students, to take part in simulation training. Studies have shown that undergraduate students can replace up to half of their clinical hours with simulations without impacting a student’s ability to pass the nursing certification exam. After each simulation, students immediately go through a debriefing session to review what they did well and where they have room for improvement, simultaneously teaching students invaluable critical thinking skills.

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