Instructor’s ‘get messy’ approach to mannequin, virtual reality lessons earns award

She’d never call herself the Ms. Frizzle of nursing education, but Sufia Turner’s approach to lessons at the University of Manitoba’s College of Nursing does draw some inspiration from the cartoon teacher aboard The Magic School Bus.

The award-winning lead instructor of the nursing school’s simulation program is particularly fond of a quote from the aforementioned Frizzle: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”

Of course, in her case, the motto applies only within the confines of simulated patient scenarios using mannequins and virtual reality.

“I feel like I’m always saying it, but I really resonate with that quote. It has become such an ingrained part of how I see simulation,” she said, because that’s the place to learn without fear of repercussions.

“We want them to take chances, make mistakes and get messy in sim, where we can reset the mannequin, we can talk about mistakes and there’s no consequences to the patient or to the (nurses) themselves.”

Her teaching approach has earned international recognition.

Turner has been named the 2022 Simulation Star of the Year by Sentinel U, a Connecticut-based company that develops and provides online health-care simulation programs for educators. She was nominated by her colleagues and selected as the winner out of three finalists based on votes from nurses across Canada and the United States in September. (This is the second annual award from Sentinel U.)

Simulating patient interactions with mannequins and online tools became part of the college’s curriculum about seven years ago, as a step between theoretical nursing classes and hands-on practice with real patients. Now, students can practice with online programs and high-tech mannequins that give pulse and heartbeat readings and can even give birth to baby mannequins.

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