Teacher Tip: Boost Skill Development With Nursing Students

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

Ashe County High School Nursing Instructor Phyllis Ashley knows how important it is for her students to understand geriatric health concerns and be empathetic toward the elderly. The National Institute on Aging reports an unprecedented growth rate of the world’s older population: today, a mere 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are aged 65 and over. This percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population by 2050 (1.6 billion). In North Carolina, where Ashley teaches, one in five citizens will be 65 or older by 2035.

As the elderly population grows, so will demand for workers skilled in geriatric health care. That’s why Ashley organizes a workshop for twice a year in which parents, family members and other students gather to see firsthand what her Advanced Health Science students are learning. At a recent workshop, her students had a unique experience to offer their visitors: the chance to “walk in the shoes” of an elderly adult.

The RealCare Geriatric Simulator by Realityworks is a wearable age simulation suit that uses custom eye glasses, weights, limb restraints and other pieces to simulate age-related physical challenges like visual impairment and stiff joints. Ashley’s students have been using the tool to learn what it’s like to be an elderly patient, develop geriatric sensitivity and learn how to provide better care for their future patients.

At the workshop, Ashley set up tables that featured the visual impairment glasses and gloves that come with the simulator. There, visitors could complete everyday tasks with the glasses and gloves on. She created another area where visitors could put the entire suit on and use the walker that accompanies the simulator. These experiences allowed visitors to get a taste of the concepts Ashley’s students are learning, while her students got hands-on experience demonstrating their skills.

 

“We had 32 people come through in two hours,” said Ashley. “I hope to do the workshop at least two times next school year, and we’re hoping to expand it.”

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

3 Ways to Use a Geriatric Suit in Your Classroom

Research shows that age simulation suit experiences enable participants to empathize with life in old age. The more empathy health occupations workers have for their elderly patients, the better care they will provide.

As the elderly population grows and demand for health care professionals trained to work with this population increases, tools like age simulation suits will become more and more important for nursing and health care education programs. So how could you use a geriatric suit in your classroom?

We asked educators who use our RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator in nursing and health care programs to share the creative ways they’re using the suit. Read on to learn what they shared!

1. Group experience. When groups of students experience an geriatric suit together, conversations are enriched. Students are able to compare how they feel and engage with one another as they try to complete physical tasks, like tying their shoes or using a cell phone. This group dynamic leads to deeper discussion and better understanding of the impact the geriatric suit is having on everyone.

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2. Patient practice. Set up a hospital room or nursing home room right in your classroom. Have one student wear the geriatric suit and the other play the role of nurse or CNA. In this scenario, the role of the nurse is even more meaningful as they help the patient perform physical tasks like sitting down, standing up, walking and laying down – they’re beginning to understand the reality of working with elderly patients, from patience and communication to providing physical assistance. At the same time, the student wearing the simulator is experiencing the physical impacts of aging on the body. These are all key skills for working with the elderly.

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2. Stations. Create several “geriatric experience” stations in your classroom for students to move through. One station could feature the complete suit, another station could feature the visual impairment glasses, another could simulate hearing loss, and so on. The Geriatric Simulator curriculum even includes several research projects that students could focus on in yet another station. Encourage your class to take turns rotating through each station.

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Real-world experiences can aide in helping prepare today’s students for success in health care careers. With a little creativity, you can conduct engaging, memorable and effective experiences for your students that will help them succeed in the future!

Learn more

For more information on the RealCare Geriatric Simulator, we recommend these resources: