Grief simulation prepares nursing students

Grief simulation prepares nursing students
Posted on 05/21/2018
Grief simulationSimulated learning scenarios are now a common part of the curriculum in the Practical Nursing Program at Northeast Tech, but students at the Pryor Campus recently practiced one of the hardest situations they may face: losing a patient.

“There are more and more research articles being written – more than 45 just last month – about the value of simulated learning environments,” said Practical Nursing Instructor Ruth Miller. “We’re very fortunate to have this technology, and now that simulations are an accepted part of the curriculum, we’re finding more and more ways to use them.”

From cardiac arrest to labor and delivery, the simulation lab at Pryor allows the instructors to control the high-tech mannequin’s functions from behind a two-way glass. The students are tasked with responding to the situation appropriately while the instructors watch and introduce new problems.

“Today we’re doing something a little different,” Miller said. “The students will be providing care to a terminal patient whose family will be present in the room when the patient dies. We’re using the simulation to help our students learn how to deal with grief, both theirs and that of the family.”

During the scenario, two students are selected to play the role of the on-call nurses, two are tasked with creating the emotional responses of family members, and one student plays the role of the doctor, who must pronounce the patient dead.

After completing the realistic scenario, the students then met with Chaplain and Grief Support Specialist David Gibson. Gibson was a full-time hospital chaplain in Grove, and after retirement he started Heartache to Hope to provide grief support in various capacities.

“When I was working at the hospital, there was a two-week period where three nurses experienced their first patient deaths,” Gibson said. “I went to our director of nursing and told her that we had to do something. We were putting people out there in a place they’d not been before.”

Gibson now conducts training for Integris residency nurses, teaching them how to recognize and cope with grief.

“Patients are people, and when facing a terminal illness, we have to prepare the nurses on what to expect from the patient, from the family and from themselves,” Gibson said. “Everyone deals with grief differently, and finding healthy ways to cope with that grief is what’s important.”

Gibson’s visit to the Pryor Campus marked the first time that a grief simulation and seminar were held on the campus.

“I think I was surprised at the amount of emotional aspects that were incorporated - comforting a grieving family, taking culture into consideration, etc.,” said Bethany Manning of Grove. “It will definitely help me to be more prepared for a death and feel more competent performing post-mortem care.”

Tayler Huerta from Oologah played the role secondary nurse in the simulation, and she was glad to have the simulated experience to prepare for the day when she might face the loss of a patient.

“It ensures that you know how to handle the situation, not only with the patient but also in your role as a nurse – to help the family with their grieving process,” Huerta said. “The simulation showed my areas of weakness, such as communication, because I didn’t know the right way to comfort the family members of the patient during his last hours of life and after the call of time of death.”
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