Nursing Simulation Labs: The Things You’ll Learn and Why They’re Important

Nursing simulation labs are designed to put nursing theory and skills to work in a controlled, safe environment along with your cohort under instructor supervision. In these simulation labs, you will be briefed beforehand, take on mock clinical scenarios as a group, and debrief afterward to evaluate your performance.

Marian ABSN students working with simulation manikin

In today’s healthcare environment, more is expected from nurses than ever before. From coordinating patient care and administering treatment to responding to critical care scenarios, the scope of responsibilities taken on by nurses is growing in response to the needs of patients. Still, nurses are expected to deliver high-quality care to their patients; this requires honed nursing skills, effective communication, critical thinking, and sound clinical judgment, all of which begin to form during nursing simulation labs at nursing school.

Marian University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (administered at program site locations in Indianapolis, Nashville, and Oklahoma City) has been designed to educate and form practice-ready, BSN-educated nurses in 16 months. A significant portion of this accelerated curriculum’s learning occurs in hands-on nursing skills and simulation labs.

But what is a nursing simulation lab? What is a nursing skills lab? How do they work together to develop your skills and build your confidence? In this post, we’ll explore what you can expect from these elements of your nursing education.

The Role of Labs in Nursing School

Marian ABSN student using stethoscope on a sim manikin

Before exploring the exact details of what goes into nursing simulation labs, we will first explain the role these labs fill within nursing education. Across nearly every BSN program, students learn through a combination of nursing theory coursework, nursing skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations. Nursing theory coursework is meant to familiarize students with essential nursing concepts and knowledge, and clinical rotations provide experience with real-world patient care as students administer supervised treatment under watchful preceptors. Nursing skills and simulation labs are the vital links between these two stages.

Having a working knowledge of nursing theory and being able to apply that knowledge in patient care are two entirely separate things. Nursing labs are designed to allow students to practice skills and techniques in safe, controlled, and supervised mock clinical environments. In these labs, students can develop and hone their skills under professorial instruction. Using this model, when the time comes to apply their skills to real patients, students can do so with confidence.

Two ABSN students working on a manikin with text nursing soft skills

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The Difference Between Nursing Skills Labs and Nursing Simulation Labs

Especially in an accelerated nursing program like Marian’s, where clinical rotations begin halfway through the first semester, learning to apply nursing theory in labs is vital. A student’s lab experience consists of nursing skills labs and nursing simulation labs.

Skills Labs

Nursing skills labs are designed for students to practice essential actions and techniques that are everyday tasks throughout a nursing career, such as checking vitals, inserting IVs, and other basic procedures.

Simulation Labs

Nursing simulation labs are designed with more variation, putting each student’s learned knowledge to the test. Often with the aid of high-tech medical manikins, instructors will present a group of students with a mock clinical scenario that requires them to think on their feet in order to see their “patient” through the exercise safely. Simulations give students less time to prepare, and scenarios can change midway through; the intention is to acclimate BSN students to the types of scenarios they will frequently encounter as a practicing nurse.

How Nursing Simulation Labs Work

Nursing simulation labs focus on a wide range of nursing skills and knowledge, and they’re not restricted to only one piece of subject matter at any given time. This means that students are required to work with their fellow cohort members to apply what they’ve learned while under a certain level of pressure. Collaboration and maintaining a cool head are key for success within the three-part process of each nursing simulation lab.

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Pre-Lab Briefing

Each nursing simulation lab begins with a pre-lab briefing, which includes the involvement of each student as well as the instructor, who will be administering the lab and overseeing student progress. The instructor will brief students on the mock clinical scenario they will be working with that day. It’s possible for these situations to change on the fly, requiring students to adjust the administered treatments and to change course to best meet patient needs.

Simulated Nursing Scenarios

After being briefed on a selected scenario, students then work to accomplish their stated goals within a mock clinical setting. Scenarios can range from allergic reactions to wound care and beyond, and instructors will often interject with updates on sudden changes in the patient’s condition that require a different approach. The use of real hospital-grade equipment and high-fidelity manikins ensures that students’ actions can also be applied to real patient care scenarios they will encounter throughout their clinical rotations.

Post-Lab Nursing Debriefs

After each nursing simulation lab, students gather with fellow cohort members and their instructors to evaluate what went well and what could have been improved within the lab scenario.

We encourage students to analyze their own performance in addition to the performance of those who were in the lab alongside them. Marian’s ABSN instructors will press students to search for alternate paths they could have taken to ensure the highest quality patient outcome. With concrete examples that highlight areas of improvement, students can learn as much after the nursing simulation labs as they do during them.

Take the First Step Toward Your BSN Degree

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With a better understanding of what you will learn in nursing simulation labs as well as how your lab experiences can lead to successful clinical application of your skills, the next step of starting your nursing career falls to you. To learn more about how Marian University’s ABSN program (which has three start dates per year) can support you as you make your way into a rewarding new field, contact an admission advisor today.

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What to Expect

This tell-all guide reveals what nursing school is like and what you can expect in our 16-month ABSN program.

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