PLAINS TWP. — Here the dummies talk, though their lips don’t move.
They can bleed, ooze, rasp and go into cardiac arrest. You can insert an intravenous line, apply oxygen and measure the pulse. And if you mess up, they won’t complain, they’ll let you try again. In fact, that’s what they’re for.
Some seven years in the making, the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center unveiled its new nursing wing for adult students taking the year-long course that can make them licensed practical nurses. Well, more like seven years in the dreaming and one year in the actual construction.
The new wing cost about $900,000 and part of that came from a bond the Center’s Joint Operating Committee floated, but School of Practical Nursing and Health Careers Director Mary Beth Pacuska stressed — several times during a recent tour — that program-generated money was saved up for years to cover the costs.
“No tax dollars were spent on this,” she said.
Along with more classroom space with state-of-the-art computers and interactive smart boards, the wing now has a student lounge — “they are adults and they had no place to wait between classes,” Pacuska said — and high-tech mannequins that can provide a pulse, breathing and fake bodily fluids such as blood and urine. There’s even one simulation room where students can be observed through a one-way mirror and video-recorded for closer review later.
The staff can also talk through speakers in the mannequins, though Pacuska admitted the effect can be a little “eerie” because the lips don’t move. And the staff can change the vital signs of the “patient” in reaction to a student’s treatment (or simply to throw a wrench into the assessments).
“We can make them ‘die,’ ” Pacuska said, “which means the student has to perform CPR.”
While there are simplified stations on one side of the new lab with basic beds and no real hospital equipment (for beginner students), the other side has cubicles that closely mimic a real hospital room, with oxygen and suction equipment on the walls. IV machines and electronic medicine carts similar to those used at local hospitals can be rolled in as needed.
Diana Johnson worked a nasal feed tube into one mannequin, then reached to get some equipment. Teacher Cristen Walker admonished, “Be careful. You shouldn’t let go yet, it could slip out.” Walker demonstrated it would help to have a second person nearby to hold the tube until it was secured.
In the next station, where teacher Rita Carey-Nita was helping students work with different oxygen masks, Danielle McGlynn, who was in the program last year before the new wing was complete, said the improvements are a big help.
“We didn’t have the hands-on experience before.”
Maria Buchleitner took a moment from the lesson to be more succinct.
“I love it,” she said of the facility, then, before turning back to the teacher, she mouthed the words again for emphasis: “Love it.”