As a nurse right out of school, Carlos Hernandez knows it can take time to master the skills needed to become a good nurse.
"New nurses come to work every day hoping to learn something new, build trust with our teams and become comfortable with our practice," says Hernandez, a clinical nurse on our stem cell transplant unit. "But what we really need is confidence -- and to know that we're making a difference for our patients."
To help build that confidence and ensure that our patients are getting the best care possible, MD Anderson has started a simulation training program. It gives new nurses role-playing situations with real patients.
"It's really important that we give our new nurses a way to develop relationship-building and communication skills with patients early in their nursing careers," says Kelly LaFrentz, who manages the program.
A new approach for training nurses
The simulation program is designed to bridge the gap between what new nurses learn in school and what they experience at patients' bedsides. It gives nurses a safe environment to run through real-life scenarios and gain valuable feedback.
"You don't know what you don't know until you've been through it," says James Cavalier, Jr., who runs the simulation center. "With this type of learning, nurses are able to identify their own opportunities for improvement as well as validate what they're doing right. It quickly builds their confidence."
Sorayah Bourenane, a new clinical nurse in our Emergency Center, says this is just what new nurses need.
"To know you did the right thing is incredibly important because you're just getting started," she says. "We need to know we're on the right track."
Role-playing with patients
The simulation center includes four replicas of inpatients rooms. All four rooms are connected by a control room, where facilitators watch and provide feedback.
Instead of relying on a mannequin, our nurse residents get to role-play with actual MD Anderson patients.
In fact, several patient advisors volunteer their time for an entire afternoon to help. They provide the most realistic scenario for our nurse residents to experience -- and give real-time feedback from the patient perspective. That feedback makes a real difference.
"During our practice, we're not thinking like patients; we're thinking like nurses," Bourenane says. "We need immediate responses from patients who've been in those situations before. It helps us a ton."
LaFrentz agrees that instant feedback is the most important aspect of the training.
"Learning from patients on how to improve the care we provide is one of the best things we've added to our program," she says. "I would have loved to have had that opportunity as a new nurse."
Bourenane says the entire experience was meaningful.
"The transition from being a student nurse is hard," she says. "To have this kind of support at the beginning of our careers is amazing. I feel lucky to have been a part of it."
A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson's bimonthly employee publication.