2017-02-17 / Community

Aspiring nurses prep for real-life emergencies

By Caitlin Trude


HEALTH CHECK—Moorpark College nursing student Christa Sao in a hospital simulation Feb. 14 at the school. 
BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers HEALTH CHECK—Moorpark College nursing student Christa Sao in a hospital simulation Feb. 14 at the school. BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers Mr. Shapiro’s chest rose and dropped with each shallow inhale and exhale, as he struggled to catch his breath. His team of nurses noted he was nauseous and dizzy but showed no signs of chest pain. His heart rate was dropping to 40 beats per minute— time was of the essence.

Though the mannequin wasn’t really in danger of dying, the senior students in Moorpark College’s nursing program were rushing to stabilize the patient just as they would if he were made of flesh and blood.

“Can we get a rhythm check?” asked Debra Boetticher, who played the role of doctor.

The four other students scurried around the room, preparing doses of atropine and double-checking that Mr. Shapiro was hooked up to the oxygen machine.

As his heart rate dipped to 35 beats per minute, the nurses let their training take over and stabilized him before transferring the lifelike dummy to the hospital’s intensive care unit.


FOCUSED—Emily Gelinas is one of 200 students in training at Moorpark College to become a registered nurse 
BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers FOCUSED—Emily Gelinas is one of 200 students in training at Moorpark College to become a registered nurse BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers The simulation was part of the college’s nursing degree program. All 200 nursing students at the college undergo such a simulation each semester, said Jamee Maxey, Moorpark College nursing instructor.

Over the last 20 years, Maxey has taught her pupils how to treat patients experiencing post-operative pain, diabetic and respiratory problems, asthma attacks and a host of other health-related issues.

To give students an idea of what it’s like to work in a hospital, students are trained in the college’s Health Sciences Center, which houses two wards complete with the same medical devices and beds found in a typical hospital. There’s even an indoor ambulance set up in the building that lets students practice responding to emergencies.

“We have all the equipment that all of our hospitals we go to have,” Maxey said.

Like Mr. Shapiro, some of the mannequins in the wards can be manipulated by the nursing instructors and are able to breathe, take in fluids and verbally respond to the nurses-in-training.

“Anytime the student does something to the patient, we can create an action or reaction to that,” Maxey said. “If the CPR technique is incorrect, or if the medication that they give is incorrect, we can respond appropriately to what they’ve done.”

As the students move through the nursing program, their responses to each simulation improves dramatically, she said.

“It’s like going from kindergarten to graduating high school in two years,” Maxey said. “That’s the amount of growth you see in a student starting the nursing program to ending the nursing program.”

The aim is that by the end of the program, students will be prepared to work as entry-level registered nurses or pursue higher degrees at four-year institutions, she said.

Because nursing is in high demand, they won’t lack job opportunities. According to a 2015 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing was cited as one of the fastest-growing careers.

Estimated to be 2.8 million in 2014, the U.S. nursing workforce is expected to increase by 16 percent in the next decade, the report said.

Factors contributing to this increase include aging baby boomers, compounded by the retirement of nurses born in that generation; the growing rates of diabetes and obesity; and the push for greater preventive care.

Also, nursing has become one of the better-paying professions, especially for those starting out. According to labor statistics, the average starting salary for nurses is about $45,000 annually, and the median pay for nurses with bachelor’s degrees is close to $67,500 a year.

Boetticher, who began the nursing program two years ago, said the education she’s received will equip her to fill a need wherever she is called. She hopes to work in a critical care unit or in hospice.

“I care for my grandma who’s in a board and care facility, and one of her caregivers introduced me to someone as a nurse,” said Boetticher, 34. “Even though I’m not officially a nurse yet . . . it really hit me all of a sudden that I’m almost there. Nursing is the most trusted profession and so it’s just an honor to be among that profession.”

Her nursing cohort Jamie Geller aspires to be an ER nurse. She feels her time at Moorpark College has prepared her for a career on the hospital floor.

“The nursing program is really difficult, but we’re almost done and it’s such a good feeling,” said Jamie, 22. “It pushes me and challenges me in ways that I’ve never been pushed or challenged before.”

The two-year nursing program at Moorpark College has two application periods each year: Jan. 6 to 31 and Aug. 1 to 31. Depending on grant funding, around 33 to 44 students are accepted into the program each semester, chosen from about 200 applicants, said health sciences coordinator Carol Higashidam.

Visit www.moorparkcollege.edu/ departments/ academic/ nursing-science for more information on the nursing program.

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