RWJUH Rahway unveils simulated operating room

Photos by Liv Meier
A male manikin sits in one of two new simulated operated rooms created for training purposes at RWJ University Hospital in Rahway.

RAHWAY, NJ — When the patient started coughing, perioperative educator Alicia Jablonsky began her customary procedures.
“How are you feeling?” she asked the woman on the operating table.

When the woman could only moan in response, Jablonsky rushed to administer an IV and then the simulation concluded.
This quick but real-life scenario took was a demonstration at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new simulated operating room Jan. 30.

The simulation lab will be used to train prospective operating room nurses and technicians throughout the RWJ Barnabas Health system through its perioperative residency program.

The new program includes two realistic simulation manikins — one male and one female — that each have a pulse, a full set of teeth and eyes that blink. Each manikin has its own room set up like a working operating room, complete with surgical tools and patient charts.
Through computer-programmed simulations, students can perform CPR, tracheostomies and lumbar punctures.

A manikin “will be most beneficial to the OR nurses because it can maintain an upright position on its own,” Jablonsky told LocalSource while demonstrating on the female manikin. “There are so many different breathing sounds that you can produce, especially abnormal ones, so the nurses can practice listening to the differences in simulated situations.”

A major benefit to having the simulation program is the fact that educators can simulate one-of-a-kind situations that a prospective nurse may never encounter during an operating room residency, according to Mary Koch, director of the Center for Professional Development.

“There are many techniques that are unique to the OR and it isn’t something that can be taught in a nursing program,” she told LocalSource after the ceremony. “These are skills that are strictly taught on the job, and now we can simulate them for our residency students.”

Koch also said many nurses learn through storytelling and, because it can be difficult to find operating room space for training purposes not all students receive the same amount of time in them. The simulation lab helps to “level the playing field.”

“This really offers them the opportunity to practice their skills in a nonthreatening environment. It creates a safe space which helps us with greater competency and success at the bedside,” said Mary Beth Russell, vice president of the RWJUH Barnabas Center for Professional Development.
The simulated operating room also has a feedback module to allow for review and critique of a student’s performance.

“That’s the beauty of this because students are going to see themselves and realize where they can improve on their own,” Koch said. “This self-discovery is really the golden ticket to simulation.”

The simulation lab will also cater to all types of adult learners, especially those who are kinetic learners.
“ORs are complex places with lots of technology, instrumentation and techniques. It’s not a place where you can learn by reading a book or watching a video. It needs to be hands on,”RWJUH Rahway CEO Kirk Tice said before the ribbon-cutting. “Future OR nurses and techs need a place of their own to learn.”

The addition of a simulated operating room is just one part of a multipronged approach to solving a national shortage of OR nurses and a shortage within their 11-hospital system in New Jersey.

“Eventually, we’re hoping to expand to other areas of simulation, such as labor and delivery or emergency,” Russell said.

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