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Dalhousie uses lifelike mannequins to help train nursing students

HALIFAX – As Nova Scotia nurses remain embroiled in a labour dispute, a class of new nurses is getting ready to join the province’s health care system.

Dalhousie University’s school of nursing held a mock simulation of medical emergencies Monday with students, using computerized mannequins in place of actual patients.

The mannequin groans and student nurses rush to help “Mr. Smith”, which is simulating a person having a heart attack. It’s a true-to-life situation where patient safety is on the minds of every student. They say they are closely watching developments in the ongoing labour dispute between Capital Health and its nurses. The nurses are demanding mandated nurse-patient ratios — a demand the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union says will address safety for both patients and nurses.

“[I’m] just curious about patient safety. What’s going to happen for the patients?” asked Ateka Yagjoubi, a third-year nursing student. Despite the labour strife, the students said they want to start their nursing careers in Halifax.

The nurse asks everyone to clear the area and then gives the mannequin a defibrillating shock.

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The simulation is aimed at giving the students a sense of the real life stress that comes with the job, according to Dr. Kathleen MacMillan, the director of the school of nursing.

“The students feel the anxiety. They feel how worried they would be in a real situation, and they get a sense of the adrenaline that comes in that kind of situation and then they remember it,” she said.

“It’s about patient safety, and it’s about students recognizing when something has gone wrong.”

The mannequins are recent additions to the nursing school, but are crucial to helping teach the students skills they will need to put to use in their careers.

“It was very overwhelming at first,” said Alex Hebert, a third-year student.

“It was exciting when you’re actually in there and doing the CPR and listening to everyone,” she said. “It’s collaborative practice and you focus more in on the patient because it seems so real.”