What Are Nursing Simulation Labs and Why Are They Important?

Nursing school simulation labs are an important part of your nursing education because they give you the space to put your coursework into action without fear of harming a human patient. Simulation lab for nursing students includes role playing, treating medical manikins and more.

Madonna ABSN student in sim lab

While online coursework plays a significant role in an online-based ABSN program like Madonna University offers, the nursing simulation labs allow you to practice what you learn in a safe environment, where you are free to put your coursework into action and make mistakes without fear of hurting a human patient before moving on to your clinical rotations.

It’s worth noting that simulation lab for nursing students is different from the skills lab you’ll also experience as an ABSN student. Skills lab is where you learn how to apply basic procedural skills, like measuring blood pressure, administering medication, inserting a catheter or performing physical assessments of the eyes, ears and pelvis.

Some of these hands-on skills can be performed on classmates (depending on the severity of the activity), while other skills will need to be executed on manikins or task trainers.

For example, if you’re trying to assess the typical signs of aging, you would practice on our elderly patient manikins. If you need to practice inserting Foley catheters, you will use our male and female task trainers. Remember, there are no adverse consequences, so you can practice nursing skills as much as you’d like.

Below, we’ll discuss in more detail how simulation labs work and explain why they are such a vital part of your accelerated nursing education.

How do simulation labs work?

Nursing school simulation labs at Madonna ABSN bridge the gap between online coursework and in-hospital clinical rotations. They challenge you to collaborate, think critically and perfect techniques without harming the safety of real-life patients. The overarching purpose of the lab is to help you feel more confident in the clinical setting.

Labs consist of two parts: nursing skills lab and simulation lab. Containing the same tools and equipment you would find in a hospital environment, both labs let you practice clinical and decision-making skills through various real-life experiences.

The simulation lab is where everything starts to click (aka, the light bulb moment!). Here is where you apply the assessment skills and newly developed nursing skills you learned in the skills lab, in a simulated, safe environment.

You can expect the manikins in the simulation lab to be more sophisticated than those used in the skills lab. This is because they are known as high-fidelity manikins — they breathe, blink and have heart sounds and various other capabilities including speech to enhance your clinical experience. They simulate symptoms, diseases and conditions that you are likely to witness in a real care setting. In some cases, these manikins will be controlled by your instructor so you can expect the unexpected.

nursing student working with sim manikin

Simulation lab will also expose you to mock injuries and other medical equipment to give the look and feel of a real clinical environment.

Patient Care Scenarios

Within your nursing simulation labs, you’ll take part in simulated patient care scenarios. These scenarios support different learning objectives — as the ABSN curriculum advances, so does the complexity of our simulations.

In the beginning of the program, you may be given a scenario that focuses on the principles of effective communication, patient-centered care and teamwork. To learn all angles of the scenario effectively, your instructor may assign you and your classmates a dedicated role. You may be assigned the role of head nurse, secondary nurse, family member(s), or instructor, depending on the situation.

Your instructors will give you an allotted time to complete the simulated experience and will take notes from an observation room to ensure you are performing right skills, such as:

  • Introducing yourself to the patient
  • Assessing the patient’s level of comfort
  • Correctly formulating a nursing diagnosis and plan of care for the patient
  • Involving the patient, family members, and other nursing students to deliver adequate care
  • Demonstrating teamwork and collaboration while providing effective comfort care interventions

Patient care scenarios are an effective way for you to revise and refine basic nursing skills. They help you develop critical thinking skills, build confidence, and most importantly, keep your patients safe.

When do I reflect on what I’ve learned?

Madonna simulation lab

After performing your skills in a simulation lab, you will then debrief in a conference room with the instructor who observed the simulation. Debriefing is meant to be a positive experience, a process of reflective practice. It’s a chance for you to talk with your instructor about how the exercise went, what you felt confident in executing and what you felt needed improving.

Your instructor may ask the following questions:

  • What did you learn?
  • Did you come across any missed opportunities?
  • How will you implement what you learned into your nursing practice, moving forward?

What’s the lab environment like?

Consisting of multiple rooms, big and small, our nursing simulation labs have everything you need to play the role of the nurse in various patient care scenarios. As you work to refine your skills, we want you to feel like you’re in a lifelike situation without the stress about hurting someone.

Nursing simulation labs are a place to learn, ask questions, make mistakes, and develop. These learning fundamentals will stick with you for the rest of your nursing career, regardless of the clinical setting you choose to work in.

-Laura Van Horn, Director of Lab and Simulation

How do simulation labs adhere to my learning style?

Nursing simulation labs accommodate all types of learning styles, from visual to auditory to kinesthetic. As an Accelerated BSN student, you will experience the sounds, sights and smells of a patient care setting. So although each learning objective is the same for all students in your cohort, you might take away more during a debriefing whereas your classmate might learn best by performing the simulation.

Thanks to our advanced simulation technology, we can manipulate a simulated patient care scenario to fit your learning style, e.g., make impromptu alterations based on your physical actions and behavioral responses.

Simulation lab will give you great insight about the consequences of your actions and the need to reduce any errors to prevent them from happening again. In other words, it’s OK to fail in simulation lab — what matters is that you learn from your mistakes.

Why are simulation labs important?

The bottom line is that Madonna ABSN lab experiences prepare you for your career as a confident nurse. Labs give you the freedom to experiment with what works best for you and allows you to respond to life-like scenarios.

Nursing simulation labs allow you to treat high-tech manikins without the pressure of treating a human patient. This empowers you to be ready for anything that comes your way in clinicals, and in the field.

You’ll also learn to be adaptable, a key trait to have as a nurse. You may be treating a symptom displayed by a manikin that could change on a dime — controlled by your professor. You’ll get used to responding to urgent changes with confidence in simulation lab.

You’ll also use state-of-the-art medical equipment and become familiar with the most up to date medical technology.

“We are taking actual medical supplies and using them to perform a wide variety of tasks that you end up actually using in the hospital,” says Chaz, a recent graduate of the Madonna ABSN program.

Ready to practice like a professional?

As you can see, nursing simulation labs play a vital role in your overall nursing education. They not only help you develop a thought process for thinking critically by putting the nursing concepts you’ve already learned into practice, but they provide you with a sense of certainty to begin clinical rotations with confidence.

To learn more about nursing simulation labs and our Accelerated BSN program, contact an Admission Representative today!