Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-04-21

When Kathryn Nix anesthetized her first live patient recently, she secured the airway and performed the drug induction sequence with a confidence of one who had performed the procedure before.

Thanks to a high-tech mannequin dubbed "Stan," the nurse anesthetist graduate student had, in essence, done so.

Stan was at Samford on loan for inspection when Nix and other students were able to practice techniques they had studied in textbooks. Thanks to a $788,389 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Samford now has its own mannequin.

Samford's "Stan" and other technical devices used in training nurse anesthetists were in place for an April 17 open house that attracted members of the Samford community as well as local media.

The funds, highlighted by a first-year award of $458,589, are being used to establish a clinical simulation program that includes purchase of a human patient simulator (HPS) manufactured by Medical Education Technologies, Inc. The grant also provides for an expanded emphasis on training nurse anesthetists for rural and underserved areas in Alabama and Mississippi.

According to the company, its HPS is the only patient simulator with the ability to provide respiratory gas exchange anesthesia delivery and patient monitoring with real physiological clinical monitors.

This means that just about any situation a nurse anesthetist is likely to encounter with a living, breathing patient can be experienced in advance.

Use of the human patient simulator will be incorporated into the basic and advanced nursing course to reinforce didactic principles and serve as a bridge between bookwork and clinical management, said nurse anesthesia program director Mary C. Karlet.

"Because the simulator mirrors human responses, students can learn, practice, and gain confidence in their clinical skills prior to actual patient care interventions," said Dr. Karlet. "Anesthesia and nursing misadventures and crises can be encountered and managed without risk to real patients."

Patient simulator reactions to injected drugs and inhaled anesthetics will help reinforce reaction, dosage, uptake, distribution and elimination concepts that are discussed in class, she explained..

The use of the simulator allows the instructor to do a better job, too.

While a student is working with the simulator in a realistic nursing scenario, the instructor can evaluate the simulation relatively "hands-free," noted Karlet.

"Working with Stan definitely helped me to feel more confident and at ease during my first induction sequence with an actual patient," said Nix, who is in her first clinical rotation at Shelby Baptist hospital.

"The ability to simulate induction of general anesthesia on a mannequin that reacted to drugs and interventions similar to an actual person greatly helped prepare me for my first rotation," said Nix, who predicted that the mannequin will be a "wonderful asset" to the nurse anesthesia program.

Although Stan's full name is Stan D. Ardman or "Standard Man," the mannequin can be used as male or female, as the teaching need may be.

In addition to the adult mannequin, the School of Nursing is purchasing a pediatric simulator, other teaching devices, lab supplies and simulation training for lab coordinators and instructors, said John D. Lundeen, coordinator of the Nurse Anesthesia Simulation and Clinical Learning Center. All were in place for the April 17 open house.

The component of the grant that allows the nursing school to better address needs of rural and underserved areas in Alabama and Mississippi is especially welcome, say administrators.

According to Karlet, students must spend at least one of their nine required clinical rotations at a rural site.

Working and studying at a health care facility in rural or underserved communities enhances the training for the students. "The practice is often different in those settings, and the students may be given more responsibility," than they would at larger facilities, said Karlet.. The latest site to be added is Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth, Miss., bringing the total number of rotation sites to 30.

Also new this year, thanks to the grant, is a collaboration with traditionally black Alcorn State University at its Natchez, Miss., campus, where Samford nursing faculty members are mentoring undergraduate students. The hope is that Alcorn graduates will want to pursue nurse anesthesia training at Samford, which will increase diversity for the school and equip students to return to their communities as graduate-level trained practitioners.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.