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North Hills Monthly

Students Benefit from Hands-on Experience at Ohio Valley Hospital School of Nursing

Jul 31, 2016 08:11PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Ohio Valley Hospital School of Nursing

n an emergency, time is of the essence, and doctors and nurses need to be ready to react quickly to whatever situations arise. One of the best ways to prepare future nurses for this experience is through simulation training. This hands-on approach allows student nurses to practice life-saving skills, as well as other medical procedures, on anatomical human models, including computer-controlled manikins. 

“At the Ohio Valley Hospital School of Nursing, our students take part in an entire simulation course, which helps them get comfortable with what they will experience in a clinical environment,” explained School Director Barbara Michel, MSN, RN. “This gives them an opportunity to practice what to do in an emergency in a nonthreatening environment, without involving actual patients.”

The School of Nursing’s Simulation (or Sim) Lab is a state-of-the-art classroom, featuring low-fidelity, mid-fidelity and high-fidelity manikins. This includes a SimMAN® 3G by Laerdal Medical, which is the most advanced patient simulator on the market, according to Christopher Milton, academic IT coordinator and Ohio Valley Hospital (OVH) Help Desk associate. 

“We’re very proud of our Sim Lab; the list of the things that students can learn from these manikins goes on and on,” he explained. “They can use them to practice CPR, for example; the manikin is very realistic—its eyes blink, it breathes, it can even cry and sweat. We can use the manikin to simulate a variety of different medical scenarios, from a patient having convulsions to a heart attack.

“There is a patient monitor attached to the manikin that gives vital signs. The student nurses are able to attach an IV and infuse actual IV fluids,” he added. “The amount of fluids given is kept track of by sensors.”

The Sim Lab was funded, in part, by a $100,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which enabled the school to offer students the opportunity to work with the latest technology. “This is a very expensive system; not only the unit itself, but the laptop computers that run it, and the cameras and mic that record what’s going on in the room,” said Milton. “This allows us to split classes in half and have one half doing the simulation while the other half watches a live stream in class. We can also play back the simulation during debriefing.

“Both students and faculty love it because it provides a way to get hands-on experience without the stress or worry of working on an actual patient,” he added. “It’s an essential part of students’ learning.”

Since the doors to the school first opened 115 years ago, the OVH School of Nursing has focused on the importance of training nurses to be prepared for any situation, in any location. “We have graduates all over the world, including one in Hawaii and one in Sweden,” said Michel. “Quite a number of them stay in Pittsburgh as well. Many of our graduates work here at Ohio Valley Hospital.”

Students can take advantage of the school’s scholarship program, which provides them with the opportunity to earn a full-tuition scholarship, based in part on scoring requirements on the school’s entrance exam. In exchange for this scholarship, which may be as much as $25,000, nurses commit to working for three years after graduation at the hospital. 

When students graduate from the OVH School of Nursing diploma Registered Nurse (RN) program, they are able to sit for the same Registered Nursing Licensing Exam (NCLEX-RN) as an individual with an associate degree or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. While the program currently takes 21 months, a recent curriculum revision has decreased the program to 19 months; this fall’s freshman class will be the first to benefit from the shorter duration.

Nurses in the program can also benefit from the school’s affiliation with La Roche College. This partnership enables students to take science and liberal arts courses at La Roche while working concurrently on a nursing degree. “After 19 months, they can sit for licensure, become a registered nurse and go to work,” said Michel, adding that students will have amassed 30 college credits at this point.

“After graduating from our school, they can then enroll in an RN to BSN program or RN to MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) program, and those credits will transfer,” she added. “Depending on where they work, they may also be offered tuition reimbursement. They can get paid while taking classes, many of which are online.” Nurses who choose to attend La Roche College to earn an advanced degree are also eligible to receive a tuition discount.

In addition to having a number of career paths open to them when they graduate, including going on to get a nurse practitioner degree or attending anesthesia school, nurses will also have job security. Researchers estimate that within the next decade, there will be a need for an additional 250,000 nurses in the United States alone.

“Baby boomers are getting older, and we’ll need to have nurses to care for this aging population,” said Michel. “There are a lot of job opportunities here in Pittsburgh, as well as across the nation.”

Thanks to the Sim Lab and other training at the Ohio Valley Hospital School of Nursing, those future nurses will be well prepared to take on whatever situations come their way.