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Simulation technology helps FVTC nursing students prepare to join workforce amid pandemic

Local News

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (WFRV) — 63 nursing students will graduate Fox Valley Technical College next week, ready to enter a field that is seeing historic levels of demand.

Nurse educator Jennifer Zernzach told Local 5 Thursday that preparing to fill those much-needed roles means lots of hands-on experience.

“As a nurse, we don’t want someone who read in a textbook how to start an IV, we want someone who knows what they’re doing,” she said.

Back in March, the nursing program had to adapt after the coronavirus pandemic closed campus.

“During that time we used a lot of innovative ideas, and we did virtual learning online,” Zernzach said.

Spring Semester was spent online, but students have since been able to make a return to campus.

“I was elated to be to come on campus again,” student Jennifer Braden said, “to have the simulators and be able to practice hands-on.”

Braden is among the 63 graduating next Friday.

This semester, students were supposed to get clinical experience working with long-term care patients.

The pandemic changed those plans.

“So we’re here in the simulation lab and we’re able to complete our clinicals here on mannequins that are high fidelity, that can breathe and blink and have heart sounds and lung sounds,” Zernzack explained.

Instructors are also able to “speak” for the mannequin patients, through microphones while sitting in an observation room.

From there, they run simulations mimicking a clinical setting.

“the simulators are an amazing alternative to give us the hands-on that we definitely need,” Braden said.

That experience will round-out the soon-to-be graduates’ education.

“The only thing we’re certain about in nursing is that things will change, so to me this was just another challenge to overcome,” Braden said of finishing her program under the Covid-19 restrictions.

The next challenge for Braden and her classmates will be joining the frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus.

“I think everybody goes into the nursing field because they care and they want to help make that difference,” she said, “so I would have to say definitely looking forward to getting out there and helping.”

According to college officials, the nursing program at FVTC usually has a 98-percent job placement rate within six months of graduation.

This semester, they expect that rate to be even higher.

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