New nursing students use human touch

NOT much is happening on a quiet Friday in the ward. 

“Patient” Gerry O’Brien has his blood pressure taken by first-year nursing student Sarah Anderson (right) as Sarah Smith and Marni Young take notes and Deakin University School of Nursing lecturer Chris Wakefield observes.

“Patient” Gerry O’Brien has his blood pressure taken by first-year nursing student Sarah Anderson (right) as Sarah Smith and Marni Young take notes and Deakin University School of Nursing lecturer Chris Wakefield observes.

Patients are waiting for their vital signs to be recorded, elsewhere a bed is readjusted and there’s some idle chatter.

Other than murmurs from the classroom next door, it sounds very much like a hospital. But the clinical setting is Deakin University’s training ground for the nurses of tomorrow. 

For the first time lecturers have put aside the lifeless dummies in favour of using actual people to play out illness. 

Nursing lecturer Chris Wakefield said the change will better prepare students for the confronting realities of their job. 

“In the past what we’ve done is students have practised new skills on each other and we’re finding that by using real trained simulated patients that they’re getting much more of a realistic experience,” Mr Wakefield said. 

“That involves things like professional communication and basic foundation nursing skills.”

Normally students have to wait until placements at the end of semester before coming face-to-face with patients. 

“You might have a scenario where a patient might be admitted to hospital with spinal injuries and that patient is unable to move and requires a substantial amount of assistance ... basically taking vital signs,” Mr Wakefield said. 

The new method has been used for first-year nursing students at the very beginning of their course. The five mock patients have been paid for by Health Workforce Australia.

Nursing is the most popular course at Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus, comprising more than 200 students, with 75 enrolled into first year alone. 

s.mccomish@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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