Student nurses, physicians solve emergency cases together

UBC medical student Robyn Buna, nursing student Bobbi Bennett and medical student Alison Leighton work to solve a patient emergency while Karen Whaley, Pritchard Simulation Centre clinical educator watches the situation unfold.

Simulation lab provides health-care collaboration in a safe setting

By Paul Marck

UBC Okanagan nursing and med students are training side by side for the first time.

Medical students start work in the clinical setting in their third year, and this is the first, third-year class from UBC’s Southern Medical Program to have an opportunity to work in hospitals and clinics in BC’s Interior.

Recently, students from both UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and the Okanagan School of Nursing collaborated for clinical training at the Pritchard Simulation Centre at the Clinical Academic Campus at Kelowna General Hospital. Using patient simulators for emergency treatment case scenarios, Code Blue teams were assembled to assess high-tech artificial patients suffering health crises.

The computer-programmed, life-like teaching simulator breathes, opens his eyes, speaks, groans, coughs and displays symptoms mimicking the unpredictable events that can routinely occur in a hospital emergency ward. Beeping monitors display faltering or improving life signs, depending on the patient’s medical condition.

“It is critical that team members understand their roles and how to work together,” says Dr. Cheryl Holmes, clinical associate professor and Year 3 education lead for the Southern Medical Program at Kelowna General Hospital. “Often in an emergency setting, doctors and nurses are called in to deal with life-threatening situations and they may not even have met one another, let alone worked together before.”

There are instant decisions to be made about treatments and medications, with team members relying on each other’s expertise and quick assessments of the patient’s condition.

“There are simple and important routines for members of the team so everybody is aware of what’s going on,” says Holmes, a physician for 30 years. “For instance, they need to look each other in the eye while explaining what they are doing, not just assume that everybody in the room has heard and understands.”

Students have high praise for the joint exercise, recognizing that doctors and nurses  have  a wealth of vital expertise to share.

“This is a safe way to do this kind of work, so that we’re not coming together for the first time in a live situation,” says medical student Donovan Duncan. “The collaborative nature shows doctors and nurses, each profession with their own host of skills, allowing us to rethink how we approach problems so we can provide the best patient assessment and care.”

Medical student Julie Schneidermann says the exercise is practical. “We get a lot more experience working this way. You get a good sense of each other’s role.”

School of Nursing instructor and laboratory and simulation coordinator Jasmine Clark says the exercise has immediate gains for students.

“To have the nursing and medical students work together makes perfect sense in a simulated environment before they’re out doing the real thing,” says Clark.

Fourth-year nursing students say the value of teamwork cannot be underestimated.

Bobbi Bennett says working with student physicians provides reassurance. “When you are dealing with people for the first time in new situations it can provoke anxiety and awkward moments. If we can deal with those situations now, in school, we can better define our roles when we graduate.”

“This collaboration is really exciting,” says Christine Gregory. “It’s a great opportunity to further our health proficiencies in having experience working together.”

The two faculties expect to collaborate in other areas of joint clinical training as well.