Medical simulation gives students hands-on experience

Katherine Ranzenberger

A 28-year-old man came into the hospital with a gunshot wound to his foot. The New Jersey man came through surgery to fix a bone in his foot with flying colors.

Medical Simulation Technician Paul Schreck, left, and Director of Medical Education Michael Bohrn observe nursing students, medical students and respiratory therapy students through a window and via monitors as they work together during a medical simulation clinic at WellSpan York Hospital in York, Thursday, May 5, 2016. The clinic promotes building communication skills within the medical field. Dawn J. Sagert  photo

However, later that day, he pushed his nurse call button, complaining he couldn't breathe.

Two student nurses, a respiratory therapist student and a third-year resident doctor worked to figure out exactly what went wrong. They administered medication. They put the man on oxygen. Yet, he still wasn't improving.

It was a tense situation, one that many doctors face every day. Quick decision making and constant, clear communication is vital for making sure the patient survives.

Students got to practice just that on Thursday.

From left, respiratory therapy student Courtney Palla, and nursing students Michele Stolzfus and Ashley Crumling listen to the heartbeat of the simulation dummy before beginning a medical simulation clinic at WellSpan York Hospital in York, Thursday, May 5, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert  photo

"It was stressful," said Ashley Crumling, a junior nursing student at York College. "We're still so new in clinical situations. We don't know everything."

Students from York College, Drexel University College of Medicine and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center among other schools were given a simulation using a realistic dummy to test their communication skills with each other and patients.

Team: Third-year resident Rebecca Hasley said the entire situation was foreign to her. However, she said she felt the team worked well together, even though they hadn't met before that day.

"It's a little nerve wracking," Hasley said. "I felt like I didn't know anything about medicine in there. But we were all just working together and got through it. We were all communicating really well."

Dawn Becker, a clinical nurse specialist at WellSpan York Hospital, said the point of the simulation is to create a team situation and make sure students are working together, just like they would have to in a clinical setting.

"As nurses, sometimes we feel the doctors know more," Becker said. "This levels the playing field. This gives the students a starting point. They're all asking for input."

Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator Deborah Barton, MS, RN, left, debriefs nursing students Casey Lynott, Ashley Crumling and medical student Rebecca Hasley following a medical simulation clinic at WellSpan York Hospital in York, Thursday, May 5, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert  photo

Instructors: Instructors watched through a one-way mirror as the 30-minute simulation ran. They took scores down for the level of communication students had and listened in as the students discussed what they thought was going wrong and how to fix it.

Deborah Barton, a registered nurse and York College certified health care simulation educator, said the group worked really well together and got the main point of the simulation.

"Everybody has a voice in the room and wasn't afraid to use it," Barton said. "If I were the patient, I would have felt good with the care."

These sorts of simulations aren't new to WellSpan. The simulation center has been around for almost 10 years. However, this is the second semester WellSpan has done this communication simulation with medical students from around Pennsylvania.

All the students involved in the simulation said they learned a lot during the hands-on experience.

"It's a little terrifying," Hasley said. "But I felt there was good communication from everyone."

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.