PUNTA GORDA — “Junior” is in bad shape. The patient’s electronic-monitoring system signifies his vital signs are weak.
“This poor kid is almost dying — his oxygen level is really low,” Veronica Parcel says. A worried look comes over Parcel’s face as she glances at the 6-year-old.
In the next room, “Noelle” is in the middle of giving birth.
“It really hurts,” she laments. She begins to moan with each contraction.
“She’s dilating,” says Rebecca Schudel, as she carefully attends to Noelle.
Another patient, “Vincent Brody,” says he’s feeling dizzy.
Wesley Levers, looking professional in his starched white scrubs, responds by adjusting Brody’s hospital bed.
“We will lower your head and see if that helps,” Levers says.
“I feel better,” Brody responds as Levers checks on his IV.
Parcel, Schudel and Levers aren’t doctors. They are students enrolled in the nursing program at Edison State College Charlotte Campus. The patients they are caring for aren’t in a hospital. They are in the school’s nursing lab. And the patients are not actually suffering — they’re not human. They are state-of-the art simulation mannequins.
Each costs anywhere from $55,000 to $65,000, and is programmed with a variety of conditions that account for the responses.
Thursday night was the grand opening of Edison’s new nursing lab. The lab is equipped with everything found in a hospital, and it includes about a dozen simulator patients. Students perform hundreds of procedures, including delivering a baby and resuscitating someone who has gone into cardiac arrest.
Delivering my first baby was nerve-wracking,” said Schudel, who is in her second year of nursing school. “But I was able to learn how to handle all the complications that arose. It was an extremely good learning experience.”
When tending to a patient, a student enrolled in the program never really knows what to expect. With just a touch of a button, a professor can send the patient into cardiac arrest or inject a myriad of other complications into an otherwise simple procedure.
“When a student first starts, they have no medical experience and they need to learn the basics, like how to take a heartbeat and insert an IV. They need very simple scenarios like dealing with a patient complaining of chest pain,” explained Cistra Paul, director of the nursing department. “When they get to the next level, while the student is assessing the chest pain, I might cause the patient to go into cardiac arrest and die. They will have to resuscitate him, but then he might be brain dead and they will have to tell the family. If he dies, they have to deal with legal issues, etc.”
After the incident, a student’s performance is assessed in a debriefing room. Each procedure is videotaped, and a professor checks off items the student completed, and addresses any mistakes that were made.
Alvin Gould, 65, a Punta Gorda resident, donated more than $100,000 to the nursing department to help fund the lab. The total project cost $218,000.
“Alvin and his family’s gift has enabled us to have the technology that we would not have otherwise,” said Dr. Patricia Land, Charlotte campus president. “We are deeply grateful.”
Gould also willed a “substantial portion” of his estate to Edison State. He hopes to help Port Charlotte residents afford a college education.