There are a variety of ways that child nursing students learn the skills we need before we going out into our placement settings. One of most practical ways we learn is through our skills labs.
A skills labs is an artificial environment, which is organised precisely how a real-life children’s ward presents. Here is a picture of our child nursing skills lab at Anglia Ruskin University.
When child nursing students go into the skills labs, we have to abide by the uniforms policies of real-life hospitals. This means we have to wear a tunic, smart trousers, appropriate shoes and our hair has to be tied back. I think this is a really good way of getting used to wearing our uniforms and our tutors are able to tell us before we go into practice, whether how we present is suitable for the workplace.
Our skills labs enable us to practice skills such as bed making, injection administration, communication, moving and handling and personal care before going and looking after real life patients. Although some of these skills sounds very easy, i.e. bed making, I was surprised at how difficult it is to get beds made properly in a very limited time period. By learning all these skills before going into placement we are also ensuring that we are providing safe and accurate care to our patients which the Nursing Midwifery Council states all nurses and midwifes should do.
So how do we practice our skills? We have a range of mannequins from babies, to toddlers, to full grown children, to adults. The great things about our mannequins is that we have so many (it is like being in a hospital) a different one shows up to every skills sessions.
Here are a few photos of our mannequins:
Another great thing about our mannequins is that we can attach them to machinery such as a pulse oximeters (see on the right) which enables our tutors to produce artificial observations and we can learn what we should do if we were to meet children with certain conditions. For example children’s nurses often meet children who have asthma.
A child who is having an asthma attack may have decreased saturations, which we can portray on the machines. Nurses often give a drug called salbutamol to those having an asthma attack. An effect of salbutamol is tachycardia (increased heart rate) which can also be shown on the machines. We can also set up some of our mannequins so that we can feel their pulses, which is a very strange thing, but a great way of learning what a pulse should feel like.
We also have a range of specialised equipment very similar to those we will be using within our practice settings for example neonatal resuscitaire which are often used for premature babies or smaller babies who have problems either at birth or usually before they are 1 year old.
The other kinds of equipment we have, enable us to learn skills such as handwashing and hygiene with our sinks, alcohol gel, wipes and personal protective equipment (PPE) which are all shown below. We also have clinical waste bins and sharps bins to practice disposing clinical waste properly.
We can also practice skill such as preparing intravenous medications (this is an IV stand,) listening to chest sounds with stethoscopes and using the weighing scales and height equipment, which is very important for drug calculations and growth and development.
One particular way child student nurses use the skills labs are when we are assessed. If through OSCE’s (objective structured clinical examination) students are given a scenario for example a child with asthma and are asked to respond to the child, depending on the observations (on the pulse oximeter). I feel that this is a really good way of learning what to do in a real life situation, as it puts us on the spot and ensures we can use the theory work we learn and put it into practice. It also means that we can get used the ways we use certain pieces of equipment that we potentially may not be exposed to in our practice settings - for example, not all student may get to go to the neonatal unit, so may not see a neonatal resuscitaire.
I really enjoy our lessons in the skills labs; I have learnt lots of skills which have been vital for my practice placement. Without the skills labs I fell I would not have been exposed to many things I will face as a staff nurse.