Just like real life, only safer
There's no time for on-the-job training in life-and-death situations. Emotions get in the way, adrenaline changes reaction time and the stakes are too high.
To prepare students for such circumstances, the Decker School of Nursing used a $500,000 gift from the Dr. G. Clifford and Florence B. Decker Foundation to build a state-of-the-art lab that simulates real-life patient-care situations like heart attacks and breech births. By using simulation mannequins, or "sim-men," that are responsive and able to answer questions, students practice in dynamic environments with real diagnostic tools, working sinks and medication and crash carts.
"The simulation lab provides a great opportunity for students," says Susan Russell, Innovative Practice Center coordinator. "Students get to come in and practice the material they are learning in their courses, whether they are working with newborns or the elderly — the mannequins can do it all."
Two-way mirrors, high-definition pan-tilt cameras and hidden microphones enable the instructor to observe every action taken by the students. The simulations are recorded from a control room so that students can see their responses, see how the patient sees them.
"It was amazing what they picked up as far as their tonality of voice and how they presented themselves in a clinical situation and what they looked and sounded like," says Clinical Assistant Professor Maureen Daws, MS '95. "That was a real eye-opening moment for them."
Decker students praise the Innovative Practice Center. "It's like nothing I've ever heard of before, and the simulations are just one of the ways that the Decker School is proving its innovation," says Decker student Sarah Dodd '12.
The best students deserve the best care
The health center on campus was built about 50 years ago with 1960s healthcare in mind. Since then, the student population has grown, the demand for healthcare has grown and healthcare delivery has changed dramatically.
"We probably have 18,000 to 19,000 clinical visits a year," says Johann Fiore Conte, MS '83, director of health and counseling services. "In 2010-11, we served about 7,800 students — about half of our student population."
To provide students the best healthcare possible, the Dr. G. Clifford and Florence B. Decker Foundation granted Binghamton University $1.5 million to renovate the Decker Student Health Services Center, turning seven large rooms into 17 private examination rooms, enabling healthcare providers to spend more time with patients while working more efficiently.
On a recent rainy Wednesday, a student came out of an exam and whispered to a friend in the waiting room, whose color scheme is cool blues accented by deep-red wood, "Yay! No ear infection!"
Not that an ear infection would have been a problem. The center has a staff of nearly two-dozen medical providers making diagnoses with modern equipment like an "ear cam" that can visually record an infected eardrum, store it in a new electronic record system and compare it to a new image during follow-up to judge a treatment's effectiveness.
The center also has its own dispensary to provide common medications like antibiotics and antihistamines free of charge. In fact, it's free to students for any service — doctor or therapist visit, vaccination or routine blood work.
"We kind of laugh because students come in and say, 'this looks like a real doctor's office,'" Fiore Conte says. "And we'll say, 'it is.'"