Experiencing Life and Death Through Sims

Simulation experiences are critical to learning especially when they’re situations students might not see during their clinical rotations.

Two sims out of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing’s Simulation Center that are especially meaningful for students are the airway emergency simulation and the end-of-life organ donation scenario. Both give perspective on how necessary it is to think quickly in a time-sensitive, life or death situation and how raw and emotion-filled nursing can sometimes be.

Recently, the students took to the sim center to see just how essential these experiences are.

In the airway emergency, students worked as part of an interprofessional team when the patient required an advanced airway. It involved the coordination of an airway intubation expert to facilitate the running of the scenario, pulmonary/critical medicine physicians, and the students. It was an invaluable experience that required great teamwork to ensure the patient’s safety.DSC_0063 DSC_0067 DSC_0080 - Copy DSC_0107 DSC_0114

The end of life organ donation simulation took the students into the OR with the family of the patient donating organs just prior to the final decision and procedure. The sim incorporates interprofessional education partners from the Johns Hopkins Hospital and representatives from The Living Legacy Foundation, which facilitates organ and tissue donation. Through this, the students learn about hospital standards and best practices. This sim was especially powerful.

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What makes sims so special is that by allowing students to participate in these experiences in a safe setting, they can learn without fear of hurting a patient, they can go through the motions to understand where they need to improve, and they are then prepared to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in a true clinical situation. Both of these simulations show the importance of interprofessional training and communication and how empathy is needed during patients’ and their loved ones most vulnerable times.

These words describe the feelings of the students following the sims:word cloud


As Director of the School of Nursing’s Simulation Center, Nancy Sullivan evaluates how simulation can best meet the educational needs of the students. Throughout her career, she has had a great variety of nursing experiences including ED/trauma/critical care of both adult and pediatric patients, nursing management, and 11 years in a nurse educator role working with new graduate nurses.

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