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Dr. Cynthia Sander

But now, finally, her efforts have been rewarded. As the longest serving chair in the nursing program’s history, she was visionary from the beginning. Long before simulation labs became well-known in nursing, she was putting it on her annual report’s wish list and writing grants to try to upgrade the lab by adding the simulation manikins and computerized equipment needed to simulate actual clinical situations students face at the bedside.

The dedication service was attended by a crowd, composed of students, grads, and parents, that spilled over into the hallway. Dr. Laurel Quinn, current chair, and Dr. Steve Timmermans, college president, presided. Dr. Quinn read a history of the program that she’d prepared from the archives. Having been there in 1983 as one of the first faculty members, listening to her report brought tears to my eyes.

I remember putting our first lab together. One of the faculty went to Penneys to buy our linens for the donated hand-cranked beds. We named our first lab the Nursing Skills Leaning Lab and forever abbreviated it on our syllabi as the NSLL.

We not only learned skills in that lab, we also held parties. I remember our faculty skits–oh my–we each would take on the persona of the subject we taught and act it out in front of the students.

I remember a few of the acts: the OB professor marched in wearing scrubs and swinging a hand knit placenta by its attached cord. That young gal is now dean of a prestigious school of nursing. The peds prof sauntered in dressed in some tin-foil-covered affair looking like a visiting Martian. I imagine she was some TV character of the time. That woman is now long retired and has recently lost her husband, having selflessly nursed him at home during a long illness. And me, the mental health nursing prof? I lay in one of the beds with the sheet over my head, lifting and lowering the rim of the sheet to peek about in a suspicious manner.

The student crowd would roar as they realized their faculty were normal, that they could forego lectures and tests now and then and become their silly selves.

“Mr. SimMan” can do all kinds of things. I heard him talk, saw him cry, felt his pulse behind his knee, and jumped back in surprise when he blinked at me.

A one-way mirror looks into Mr. S’s private room. The nursing prof can observe the student giving care without being a distraction to the student.

Using a computer, the prof can program Mr. S into behavior that requires a student’s response. By observing the student’s actions, the prof can objectively assess how he or she “thinks on her feet” (immediate critical thinking skills). An anonymous donor made this new lab possible. We thank God for this gift!

Mr. S’s “wife” is in labor in another private room. The student can actually deliver her baby and then care for the newborn in a bassinet. The first stop for the newborn would be this nice warming crib. The student can  give the immediate care: assess Apgar score, obtain footprints, measure height and weight, give eye care, and whatever else an OB nurse does!

One section of this multi-roomed new lab provides a study area, complete with a conference-sized table, computer stations, and comfortable chairs.

The current students signed posters, thanking everyone for their new lab.

Seeing several of my former students–one back to the first graduating class in 1985– was a real joy. Two students from the Class of 1986 and two from the Class of 2008 are on faculty. A few grads have children presently attending the college, and, thanks to Facebook, I know more are in the process of applying.

Who would have thought, way back in 1983, when we stocked that first lab with a few practice manikins costing less than 1,000 dollars apiece, that almost 30 years later, those dolls would cost nearly 100 (yes, 100) times that amount?

And, who would have thought that those new, super expensive dolls would then have the gall to blink, talk back, and cry? What next? Climb over the side rails?