Jessica Fowler, a senior nursing student from Orlando, Fla., right, and Marissa Galan, a senior nursing student from Atlanta, Ga., work with an iStan in the Brenau University Nursing Simulation Lab on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Simulation​ ​Experiences​ ​Enhance​ ​Nursing​ ​Education

Jessica Fowler, a senior nursing student from Orlando, Fla., right, and Marissa Galan, a senior nursing student from Atlanta, Ga., work with an iStan in the Brenau University Nursing Simulation Lab on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Forever GoldDreams can come true. Just ask Brenau University senior nursing student Marissa Galan. She’ll tell you that dreams come true with a lot of compassion, determination and practice – lots of practice.

The Atlanta native attributes her academic success and professional preparedness to the caring faculty of Brenau’s Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing and the repeated exposure to the school’s learning-based simulated health care environments.

Galan, the daughter of a physician father who specializes in pain management, knew from an early age she wanted to be in the health care profession. Her dream was to someday work side by side with her father helping others. She contemplated going to medical school as a student at Auburn University, but while working for her dad as a medical assistant at his pain management practice alongside one of his nurse practitioners, she began questioning if becoming a physician was the best path for her.

Galan discovered the nurse practitioner had a much more personal relationship with her patients than the physicians did. “It was working directly with the patients as well as with the nurse practitioner that made me realize that nursing school was exactly where I needed to be,” she recalls. “I continued working with my dad until I began nursing school at Brenau in May of 2015.”

“Brenau is making it possible for me to pursue my dream job as a nurse practitioner alongside my father.”
Brenau Nursing Student Marissa Galan

Galan began nursing school during a critical time in the profession as Georgia and much of the country are in the midst of a profound nursing shortage. The Peach State has one of the lowest ratios of registered nurses per capita in the U.S. with only 705 RNs per 100,000 people and is more acutely impacted by the nursing shortage than some other states due to a swiftly growing and aging population.

Ironically, with an improving economy, part of the aging population heading toward retirement is a generation of stalwart nurses who are taking with them years of experience and knowledge. In 2010, 60 percent of Georgia’s registered nurses were 50 or older, and this demographic represents about 44 percent or one million nurses nationally. Georgia’s nursing shortage is expected to exceed 37,700 by 2020, while the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration projects a staggering 800,000 unfilled nursing jobs nationwide by then.

“These acute nursing shortages make it more important than ever that our graduates have the confidence and experience to meaningfully contribute their first day on the job,” says Dina Hewett, director of Brenau’s Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing, located at Brenau East at Featherbone Communiversity. “One of the best tools for ensuring our students’ success is our simulation experiences, especially our computer-controlled human patient simulators designed for hands-on nurse-patient skills training.”

The Brenau University Nursing Simulation Lab on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Nursing students do routine vital signs check on a human simulator. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Galan wholeheartedly agrees. “Simulation experiences provided me with the opportunity to learn without the fear of creating a life-threatening error on a patient,” she says. “It is so important that we are able to learn through our mistakes while practicing our skills in the simulation lab. These simulated experiences also provided us practice taking care of patients with certain conditions that we may not encounter regularly, or even have the ability to see on our clinical rotations. I felt more confident walking into a patient’s room knowing that I had been trained and had experience through the simulated scenarios provided.”

Galan also appreciates how some of the more mundane but vital parts of nursing are practiced in the simulations like charting a patient’s progress. “Many nursing students do not have any experience using an electronic medical record,” she says, “so having the opportunity in simulation to practice charting was beneficial. Along with charting our assessments, we were also able to practice finding physician orders, looking up labs, scanning medications, etc. This provides us with more experience when going into the clinical setting.”

In order for Brenau to remain ever vigilant in providing its nursing students with the highest level of nursing education and training, it is seeking to secure funds to create a new $1.6 million Health Care Simulation Center. “While our current simulation experiences have served as well, our new Health Care Simulation Center will provide a more comprehensive approach and robust experiences for our students,” Hewett says.

The Brenau University Nursing Simulation Lab on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“More vivid and realistic simulated experiences with immediate feedback and an interdisciplinary approach, which also will expose occupational therapy and physical therapy students to realistic scenarios in their fields, will position this center well beyond our current offerings,” says Gale Starich, dean of Brenau’s College of Health Sciences and professor of biochemistry. “The proposed center is vital to the proper training of these students by providing hands-on, realistic scenarios for experiential learning that can duplicate tasks and procedures in a lifelike environment.”

The Health Care Simulation Center will create a hospital-like environment, as highlighted in the architectural rendering. Eight rooms will form a periphery around a central nursing station, according to Starich. Rooms will include settings for health assessment/triage, critical care, medical surgery rooms for acute and critical care, labor and delivery, nursing, pediatric and newborn. Each room will contain wireless mannequins – adult, birthing and child – that can duplicate real-life scenarios. Rooms also will be equipped with audiovisual systems for monitoring and feedback. Enhanced telemetry controlled at the nursing station will allow instructors to create an array of critical vitals.

“We are committed to providing excellence in nursing education at Brenau,” Hewett says. “The Health Care Simulation Center will provide students with the educational facilities required to best prepare them for this challenging profession and will assure that Brenau maintains the highest level of nursing education standards.”

Galan will be forever appreciative of her Brenau nursing experience, so much so that she has applied to Brenau’s Family Nurse Practitioner program. While in the program she plans to begin working as a registered nurse. “Brenau is making it possible for me to pursue my dream job working as a Nurse Practitioner alongside my father,” she says. “I hope to improve the lives of my patients by improving their quality of life through pain relief.”

Brenau’s baccalaureate nursing program was approved by the Georgia Board of Nursing in 1978 and was initially accredited by the National League for Nursing. Today the BSN is offered through a traditional daytime format, through a part-time track with evening classes and weekend clinical rotations, or through an online RN-BSN bridge program. In 2006, the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education granted initial accreditation to the BSN program. Brenau’s Master’s in Nursing program began in 1995 with the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty and expanded to include the Nurse Educator specialty in 2006 and a Nurse Manager specialty in 2008. Both BSN and MSN degree programs are currently accredited by the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education. In fall 2011, the School of Nursing initiated the university’s first doctoral degree, the Doctorate in Nursing Practice, and this program’s first graduates received their degrees in May 2014.

Jessica Fowler, a senior nursing student from Orlando, Fla., right, and Marissa Galan, a senior nursing student from Atlanta, Ga., work with an iStan in the Brenau University Nursing Simulation Lab on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Jessica Fowler, a senior nursing student from Orlando, Fla., right, and Marissa Galan, a senior nursing student from Atlanta, Ga., work with an iStan in the Brenau University Nursing Simulation Lab on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

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