The College of Health and Human Services at California State University, Fresno announced today (May 21) a $300,000 fund drive to add an interactive nursing skills laboratory.

The new lab will allow students in the Department of Nursing to experience real-life, hands-on training in a virtual hospital environment. Officials hope it will be open next fall.

The new lab is the latest weapon in Fresno State’s efforts to help ease the nursing shortage in California, said Naomi Strong, director of development for the College of Health and Human Services. The Nursing Department already has increased admission of students to twice and year, she said, and has revised curriculum to better prepare students for technological and procedural advances in health care, with particular attention to needs of the Central Valley.

“We want our students to practice and have the skills in place before they go into the real world of health care,” said Strom.

One of the centerpieces of the lab will be a $50,000 high-tech mannequin that realistically simulates 2,500 variations of normal and abnormal bodily functions such as pulse and blood pressure. It also produces realistic sounds of the heart, lungs and abdomen, and even moaning and coughing.

The lifelike, full-body mannequin allows students to practice all types of patient care for a variety of situations, from simple to complex assessments. It allows both teaching and learning in a simulated environment that is “virtually real.”

For example, the mannequin’s head can be tilted forward, backward or rotated 90 degrees to either side to allow ear irrigation, nasal-gastric tube insertion, trach care and realistic suctioning.

Diane Benefiel, clinical instructor in the Department of Nursing, said that having a “smart” mannequin will allow the department to expand real-life patient care experiences.

A second, female “smart dummy” will simulate labor and delivery.

The new lab also will have standard hospital equipment such as a blood pressure cuff, a cardiac “crash cart” and electric beds. Training videos will allow students to visualize various procedures on a live human being.

Strom, a registered nurse who has worked throughout the Valley, is spearheading a fund drive to secure $300,000 in cash and in-kind equipment contributions needed for the laboratory. State funding of $80,000 has been allocated for infrastructure work, which is under way to transform five classrooms into hospital-like rooms.

Though primarily aimed at students, Fresno State will make the state-of-the-art skills lab available to area hospitals that wish to offer in-service training to their new nurses or for continuing education courses for their staffs, Strom said.

Donations to the nursing laboratory are tax deductible.

For more information, call Strom at 278-8570.

(Note to media: Strom and Benefiel are available today and this week for interviews and photos in Fresno State’s existing nursing lab.)