Patient simulations used to train nurses

Mannequins cost range from $2,000 to $80,000, have ability to bleed



Researchers are using patient mannequins to examine how a 12-hour shift affects nurses. PRH implements 20-minute sleep breaks to reduce and prevent fatigue.

LUKE HUDSON, Evergreen reporter

WSU researchers in the College of Nursing are about halfway through a three-year study using simulations to test how fatigue affects work performance among nurses.

Lois James, assistant professor in the College of Nursing and researcher in the study, said the research team used patient mannequins and driving simulators to examine how 12-hour shifts affect nurses.

“We’re not doing this to try to prove that 12-hour shifts are bad,” James said. “We’re not doing this for any other reason other than to get a really, really in-depth look at what the risks of taking 12-hour night shifts are.”

Nurses worked a 12-hour shift and then had to examine the mannequin and conduct an exam as if they were a real patient, James said. Researchers were examining how alert the nurses were and whether they could respond to the patient properly.

She said the mannequins are sophisticated and have a lot of different functions including being able to bleed. Most cost around $2,000, but the most advanced can be up to $80,000.

A driving simulator is also used to test how long hours affect the ability of nurses to drive home after their shift, she said.

James said given how early it is in the study, researchers want to be careful about sharing inconclusive information, but most nurses who worked 12-hour night shifts were sleepier than those who worked 12-hour day shifts.

This is also an understudied field, which made it more interesting as a research topic, she said.

Jeannie Eylar, chief clinical officer at Pullman Regional Hospital, said PRH developed fatigue guidelines to reduce risks associated with long shifts.

“There’s always a big difference in how people function when they work [regular] night shifts, and we tend to be a little more flexible around staff that work night shifts,” she said.

The guidelines state that nurses should remember to take breaks during their shift as needed and that nurses working night shifts are encouraged to take a 20-minute sleep break away from the station.

Eylar said PRH routinely collects feedback and employee satisfaction is consistently high while turnover rates are low. She said she attributes this good rating to the steps the hospital takes to reduce and prevent fatigue.

This low turnover rate saves the hospital money, she said. It costs about $75,000 to hire and train a new nurse if someone quits.

This article has been updated to correct an error in the subhead.