'State-Of-The-Art' Nursing Program Is A Learning Masterpiece

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The manikins in Longwood University's Edward I. Gordon Clinical Simulation Learning Center are no dummies. Moreover, the astonishing state-of-the-art experiential knowledge they provide the university's nursing students will produce an exceptional level of medical care by the program's graduates for generations.

Tours of the third-floor Stevens Hall facilities during the recent dedication and ribbon cutting ceremonies left attendees speechless as they grasped for words to describe what seemed to be the set from a futuristic science fiction film.

But it was all science fact.

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Consider the nursing program's description of the Fundamental Skills Laboratory that is equipped with five stations that simulate a hospital environment. In particular, this about the Virtual IV Station-“a fully interactive self-directed learning system for training intravenous catheterization. Powerful 3D graphics provide visual realism, while (a) state-of-the-art force feedback device accurately simulates the sense of touch. Virtual patients respond with bleeding, bruising, swelling, as well as other patho-physiological reactions…”

Yes, one can learn from a textbook, particularly for subjects such as history, literature, and philosophy, but a textbook and lectures can only take a nursing student so far. Longwood's clinical simulation learning center takes “so far” into the next galaxy of nursing education with manikins that provide human responses. Yes, nursing students can do something that results in the “death” of a manikin or provide moments of crisis. What a safe, exceptionally effective way to learn from mistakes and from ultimate success.

The center's namesake, Farmville physician Dr. Edward I. Gordon, very clearly sees the value through the lens of his own x-ray vision as a doctor:

“I see such potential here,” Dr. Gordon said during the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, “and I've got probably more exposure than most physicians do to some of the things that you're seeing today. The amount of things that can be done here just appear to be endless and the growth potential of this is also endless.

“At the bottom of all this is the fact that the nursing students that go through this program are going to save lives and they're going to save lives in a way that is so different than in the past because they'll go into their first clinical experiences with live people who actually talk back to them and know what to do, and have been through some of the horrors of the mistakes that were made in the simulation lab but not in the real world,” he said during the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

No second opinion is needed. The diagnosis is correct.

The Chair of the nursing program, Dr. Melody Eaton, affirmed that the clinical simulation learning center “will offer experiential learning in a safe environment. Students will enhance their knowledge, critical thinking skills, and confidence in caring for patients.”

Dr. Gordon, also a member of Longwood University's board of visitors, donated $1 million for the clinical simulation learning center. The contribution is the largest ever to Longwood from a local resident and there could surely never be a more valuable use of such generosity than what the gift will mean to nursing students and, in turn, those they spend their lives helping to care for and heal.

Longwood University President Patrick Finnegan's words showed the precise accuracy of a surgeon's scalpel when he said to those preparing to tour the facility, “You will be impressed. You cannot help being impressed by the center and the technology that our students will have the opportunity to use to aid in their learning. This center puts our program on the cutting edge of educating and training these student nurses to help prepare them to be among the very best in their profession.”

Nursing is a profession in great need of additional practitioners in our Commonwealth. Virginia needs more nurses, ranking near the bottom-45th out of 50 states-in nurses per capita. There are 624 nurses in our state for every 100,000 residents, far fewer than the national average of 746 nurses for every 100,000 residents.

The nursing program and its students, President Finnegan said, “are directly involved in Longwood's aim of graduating citizen leaders who contribute to the overall good of society.”

That aim has never been more accurately through the bull's-eye than it is on the third floor of Stevens Hall.

But do not over simplify. Critically, the new Longwood University nursing program is not simply a matter of high technology. Rather, achieving the necessary results for nursing program graduates and those they will serve depends upon the most effective teaching and learning use of that high technology by faculty and students.

That bull's-eye, too, is being pierced.