DECATUR — Cedric Sanders was quick to raise his hand when Millikin nursing instructor Charlotte Bivens asked for volunteers to be the first to attempt a rapid response team simulation.
Sanders, along with fellow senior nursing student Sierra Rasmus, walked up to “Henry Hudson,” the simulation manikin, with confidence. Both are part of Millikin’s Summer Nursing Internship program.
On Monday, Millikin students involved in the program worked on interacting with rapid response teams, which are used in hospitals to prevent what is called "failure to rescue.”
“How are you doing sir? How’s it going?” Sanders asked Hudson, in this case a 66-year-old three hours removed from a robotic prostatectomy.
From behind a screen, Bivens played the part of Hudson, responding: “I don’t know. I don’t feel so good. The room is spinning. I think I’m going to pass out.”
Sanders of Gurnee, and Rasmus of Decatur, began taking Hudson’s vital signs, reporting his blood pressure and pulse.
Rapid response teams are called on when a patient has symptoms that point to something going wrong, but are not a full “code,” in that they haven’t stopped breathing or their heart hasn’t stopped.
Those playing the rapid response team, led by Bivens’ fellow Millikin instructor John Blakeman, walked in, and both Blakeman and Bivens began firing questions. That’s when, Sanders admitted, things got tough.
“Would oxygen be any benefit to him?” Bivens asked.
The eight students in the class were silent, a few muttering an unsure answer under their breath.
The answer was, “Yes, it wouldn’t hurt him,” Bivens said. Those are the kinds of lessons Sanders said he was hoping he’d learn in the Summer Immersion course.
“The focus is really trying to think like a nurse, and this really helps you learn the processes you have to go through mentally,” Sanders said. “They can teach you a lot of things in class, but that’s something you have to learn by picking it up on your own.
“I know what to do when I first encounter the patient, but it’s after that where I’m still finding my way.”
The class discussed topics including ethics, communication, end-of-life issues and decision-making. Also, each student worked on a different nursing unit at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur.
Rasmus has worked at St. Mary’s intensive care unit and plans to work there when she graduates in December.
“Experiences like this one and the ones I’ve had working are what help make you competent and ready for when you hit the floor,” Rasmus said. “It’s really important for building confidence for new nurses. If you’re going to a high-stress environment, you want to have had some experience working in different situations like rapid response.”
Bivens said while some lessons will only be learned in real-life situations, simulations give students the chance to prepare for them.
“This is a safe learning environment,” Bivens said. “If they make a mistake or say something completely silly, we’re not going to say that. We try to teach them the process of critical thinking a nurse needs, and going through it in simulations like this is helpful.”