What is Simulation Lab Nursing and Why Is It Important?

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In simulation lab, nursing students practice crucial nursing skills on medical manikins that mimic human patients. You’ll practice vital skills for your career, such as placing IV lines and drawing blood, and you can learn from your mistakes without the risk of harm to a human patient.

madonna nurses with mannequin

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.

What Is Simulation Lab Nursing?

In nursing school, you’ll study nursing concepts in your online coursework. However, it’s quite different to know a nursing concept in theory than it is to put it into practice. Simulation labs in nursing education allow nursing students to develop clinical skills by putting into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. During a simulation lab, you’ll be presented with a medical manikin. This device simulates a real patient; it can have: reactive pupils, breath and bowel sounds, heart sounds and a pulse. You can insert an IV into its veins and a catheter into its urethra. You can intubate its lungs and decompress its stomach. It’s the next best thing to practicing clinical skills on an actual patient.

You’ll work through various nursing simulation lab scenarios, by evaluating the manikin’s symptoms, making observations about its behaviors and developing appropriate nursing responses. During each scenario, you’ll be observed by your instructor and other members of your cohort. Following each scenario, you’ll be debriefed. The post-sim lab debriefing is an opportunity to reflect on what you felt confident about, what gave you pause and what sort of problems you experienced. You’ll discuss mistakes and learn what to improve upon moving forward.

You can learn more about the nursing simulation labs at Madonna here!

What’s the Difference Between Sim Labs Nursing and Skills Labs?

As an ABSN student, you will work through both sim labs and skills labs. Although the terms may sometimes be used interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. Sim labs and skills labs both allow you to practice your clinical skills. However, sim labs involve patient scenarios, whereas skills labs do not present patient scenarios.

Instead, in a skills lab, you will learn and practice a variety of foundational clinical skills, such as the following:

  • Taking vital signs
  • Assessing patients
  • Interviewing patients
  • Drawing blood
  • Placing IV lines
  • Placing nasogastric tubes
  • Inserting urinary catheters
  • Helping patients with limited mobility to ambulate

You’ll practice these procedural skills on medical manikins and male and female task trainers. In certain situations, you might also practice procedural skills on other members of your cohort (such as patient interviewing and mobility assistance).

Madonna ABSN student working with sim manikin

How Do Nursing Simulation Labs Work?

Nursing school simulation labs at Madonna’s ABSN Learning Site will 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 human patients. The main purpose of the lab is to help you feel more confident in the clinical setting, as well as to refine your nursing skills.

The simulation lab is where everything starts to click (aka, the light bulb moment!). Here is where you will apply your assessment skills and newly developed nursing skills in a simulated, low-stakes 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 an actual care setting. In some cases, these manikins will be controlled by your instructor, who may adjust manikin behaviors as the scenario unfolds. Simulation lab will also expose you to mock injuries and other medical equipment to give the look and feel of an actual clinical environment.

Madonna ABSN student working with sim manikin

Learn more about what to expect from nursing school in this blog!

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 or instructor, depending on the situation.

Your instructors will give you an allotted time to complete the simulated experience while they take notes from an observation room. You’ll be expected to perform tasks 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

Simulation labs in nursing programs are an effective way for you to revise and refine basic nursing skills. They are intended to teach you critical thinking skills and confidence, and most importantly, to keep your patients safe.

What’s the Lab Environment Like?

Madonna nursing student in simulation lab

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 realistic situation, but without the stress of potentially hurting an actual patient.

Nursing simulation labs are a place to learn, ask questions, make mistakes and develop. You can lean on these nursing fundamentals for the rest of your nursing career, regardless of the clinical setting you choose to work in. You can expect the lab environment to throw a wide variety of challenges at you. You may suddenly see a medical manikin begin to bleed, for example. (It will be fake blood, of course, but it will seem realistic.) You’ll need to learn to keep calm, think on your feet and develop appropriate responses. During your time in the ABSN program, you’ll work through a variety of nursing scenarios, such as working with medical manikins that simulate childbirth, an asthma attack, stroke, a heart attack or an allergic reaction.

How Do Simulation Labs in Nursing Prepare You for Your Career?

Nursing simulation labs accommodate all types of learning styles, from visual to auditory to kinesthetic. The nursing simulation lab scenarios can be adjusted based on your physical actions and behavioral responses. This allows you to practice delivering patient care and interacting with patients before you ever step foot in an actual patient’s room. In addition, you will experience the sounds, sights and smells of a patient care setting. This will prepare you to enter clinical settings with greater confidence, as you will know what to expect and how you can respond to various situations.

One of the most valuable aspects of nursing simulation labs in preparing you for your career is that they enable you to make mistakes without fear of real-world consequences for the patient. In fact, making mistakes in a simulation lab isn’t undesirable because it gives you the opportunity to learn from those mistakes and become a better nurse because of your learned experience. Nursing simulation lab scenarios allow you to experiment with your responses to various situations, and to treat medical manikins without the pressure of treating a human patient.

You’ll also be taught 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 have the opportunity to learn how to respond to urgent changes with confidence in your simulation lab nursing skills.

Ready to Get to Work on Sim Lab Nursing?

smiling nursing student

As you can see, simulation lab nursing skills play a vital role in your preparation for your future career. 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 also provide you with a sense of certainty to begin clinical rotations with confidence.

At Madonna, you can begin simulation labs sooner than in a traditional BSN program, allowing you to make the connections between your online coursework and nursing practice at an accelerated rate. We are founded on Catholic and Franciscan values and instill students with the knowledge to treat the mind, body, and spirit.

Through the combination of our state-of-the-art skills and nursing simulation labs, you gain the experience necessary to meet the challenges of clinical rotations and take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) with confidence, setting you on the path to become a successful and competent registered nurse.

When you choose Madonna’s ABSN Learning Site for your nursing education, you will work through a rigorous curriculum that combines online coursework with in-person labs, simulations and clinicals. Earn your BSN degree in as few as 16 months with support from your dedicated Academic Success Coach. To learn more about nursing simulation labs and our ABSN program, contact an admission representative today!