What Is a Nursing School Like? A Closer Look at Hands-On Labs
You’ve decided you want to become a nurse. The next step is to find a nursing school and program that aligns with your mission and nursing school goals. This may lead you to wonder, “what is a nursing school like?”
While there’s a lot of nursing school advice out there for potential students, you may find a lack of in-depth information when it comes to describing exactly what you will experience as a student in nursing school.
At Concordia University–Portland, a large portion of the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) school experience is hands-on. Why? Because it’s essential that students gain valuable hands-on experience before caring for patients in a real-world health care setting.
Thanks to Concordia’s blended curriculum, ABSN students can practice hands-on nursing skills in a safe learning environment through onsite labs. Keep reading to learn more about what nursing school is like with the ABSN program at Concordia.
Two types of labs: skills and simulation
Bridging the gap between online coursework and clinical rotations, skills and simulation labs let you apply what you’ve learned online in a real-life practice setting. They challenge you to work as a team, think critically, and refine techniques before working with a real-life patient.
There are many benefits to hands-on labs. They can:
- Provide you with immediate feedback
- Allow you to make and learn from your mistakes
- Be designed, manipulated, and customized for your individual learning style
- Offer you the opportunity to practice rare and critical procedures that take place every day in the field of nursing, and more.
“When you go out into the real world, you want to feel comfortable with the skills you’ve learned,” says Kevin, an Accelerated BSN graduate. “Skills and simulation labs are the best place to build that confidence – they allow you to practice as a nurse and care for patients in a safe and effective way.”
What happens in a skills lab?
“Skills lab is the time and place for you to practice the skills you’ve already learned about,” says Kevin. Some of these hands-on skills can be practiced on a simple task trainer, a medical manikin, or even a fellow student.
In skills lab, you’ll practice:
- Checking vital signs
- Measuring blood pressure
- Inserting an IV
- Locating an arterial pulse
- Listening for heart sounds
- Providing routine tracheostomy care
- Passing medication
- Giving insulin
At the beginning of the skills lab, your instructor will go over a specific topic you recently learned about in the online coursework. For example, if you recently learned about Foley catheter insertion, your instructor would demonstrate the skill in front of you using a male and female task trainer. You’ll want to take notes and ask questions during this time.
After observing your instructor, you will then perform the skill independently.
“As we attempt the skill for the first time, our instructor is always there to let us know what we can do better,” says Accelerated BSN graduate, Vickie.
What happens in the simulation lab?
“Simulation is where you get to pretend like you’re seeing a real patient and you have to go through an entire situation start to finish,” says Kevin.
Simulation lab builds on skills lab by simulating actual medical scenarios, such as caring for a sick child or a patient on life support. This is where everything will start to come full circle.
The simulated environments you’ll practice in:
- Mental health
- Life support
Mirroring a hospital room environment, you can expect to see a high-fidelity manikin lying on the bed, along with an assortment of complex nursing equipment such as IV pumps, medication carts, enteral feeding pumps, and more.
A variety of things can happen in the simulation lab, including patient care scenarios, role-playing, and interacting with high-fidelity manikins in a consequence-free environment. It is here where you’ll start to overcome any fears or insecurities.
Patient care scenarios
“The purpose of simulation lab is to live through a potential crisis situation with a patient, or at least an actively changing situation with a patient, so you can see how you react as a nurse,” says Accelerated BSN graduate, Stephanie.
For example, when caring for a sick child, your instructors will evaluate you to ensure you are executing basic skills, such as:
- Washing your hands
- Introducing yourself to the patient and/or family member in the room
- Acknowledging your patient (making eye contact)
- Explaining the purpose of what you’re doing
“It’s your job to determine what the best action is for the sick patient. Do they need counseling? Do they need to be further educated on their disease? It’s really up to you to figure out what you’re going to do to give that patient the best outcome,” says Kevin.
After each simulation, you’ll debrief with your instructors to discuss your experience. These debriefings help you to reflect on the simulation and give your instructors the opportunity to understand your actions and clinical approach.
How you communicate with your patient matters. If the parents of a sick child become angry or upset, you will have to know how to calm them down. To prepare you for this, clinical staff and faculty will have you participate in simulations with other students.
For example, if your classmates are playing the role of the parents, they may ask you challenging questions like, ”How long will my child be in your care?“ or “What’s the underlying cause of my child’s disease?” It is up to you to answer these questions correctly, professionally, and promptly.
High-tech medical manikins
The manikins you see in the simulation lab will be much more refined than those used in the skills lab. This is because they are high-fidelity medical manikins – they blink, breathe, talk, have heart sounds, and more. Most of the time, these manikins will be controlled by your clinical instructors. Practicing skills and simulated experiences on these manikins can teach you how to react to intense situations that may happen suddenly.
Are you ready to begin your hands-on practice?
Your nursing school journey will not only be an intellectual one, but one of resiliency. It will teach you many things – how to be more responsible and accountable, how to save lives and think critically, and most importantly, how to advocate for your patients.
While it requires hard work and perseverance to succeed, at the end of your 16-month education at Concordia, you’ll feel more than prepared to step into the field of nursing as a confident and competent registered nurse.
While it requires hard work and perseverance to succeed, Concordia believes that at the end of your 16-month education you’ll feel more than prepared to step into the field of nursing as a confident and competent registered nurse.
Ready to accelerate your nursing future? Contact one of our dedicated enrollment specialists to get started.