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A dose of realism

June 21, 2011

At the College of Nursing, a moulage guru gives students a safe—if gross—environment for learning.

Stephanie Justice has one of the most interesting jobs at Ohio State: Part artist, part nurse, and part mad scientist.

"I feel like I have the best job in the world," says Justice, whose title in the College of Nursing is lecturer, though she does not lecture in any sense of the word.

Justice's unofficial title is moulage guru, which means she simulates everything from heart attacks to vomit to amputations to give nursing students a taste of what they might find in the world they're aspiring to enter.

"When students are trying to learn how to take care of patients, one of the things they have to learn is a poker face," Justice says.

"One of the first dressings I ever did was on a patient who was missing half their heel. You could see right down to the bone. If you as a nurse make a face like that's the worst thing you’ve seen, the patient will react to that. So getting some shock value during simulation is a good thing."

Lisa Rohrig, director of the Technology Learning Complex in Newton Hall, says Ohio State has become a leader in using simulation as a supplement to actual clinical work experience.

"We ask them to treat this patient as if it's real, the idea being that if you believe it's a real person, you'll take it seriously, and if you take it seriously, you'll react like a full-fledged nurse," Rohrig says.

Nursing students use the complex each quarter of their three years at Ohio State. It includes 16 static mannequins that students can use to practice blood draws, inserting IV needles, and the like, as well as nine human simulators that are hooked up to a computer and can be programmed to breathe, have a pulse, convulse, blink their eyes, even talk to attending students. It’s Justice’s job to make the situations as realistic as possible.

"This is a safe environment," she says. "If they make a mistake here, they can't kill the patient. It's a great time to learn; if it takes someone 10 minutes to figure out how to program the IV pump when you have five different weight-based medications to adjust, they can stay on an even keel while they learn."

(Read the full story from OnCampus.)