Call her a late bloomer. Millie had already made quite a name for herself around here after starring in several scenarios in the Center for Technology-Enhanced Nursing, Cooper Hall’s state-of-the-art simulation suite. But now, at the age of 90, she is set to break onto the national scene thanks to a four-part gerontological simulation package developed by Clinical Assistant Professor Kari Hirvela MS ’07, RN, and Clinical Instructor Paula Woywod, MSN, RN.
The simulation series follows Millie through various stages of health and transitions from home care to a hospital stay and eventually into a skilled nursing facility. Millie is a fictional patient with a thorough health and personal history, and she is represented in simulations by a high fidelity manikin.
Although Millie is not a “real” patient, she enables students to follow her health over time and get to know her as an individual and not simply a case study for a specific exercise or an example of a certain illness or condition. As a result, Millie presents a unique learning opportunity that students seldom, if ever, encounter in their clinical rotations.
“Millie’s our star,” Hirvela says. “She has the backstory of having a dog and losing her husband and enjoying gardening. Students talk quite a bit about her social history in their interviews with her. That’s really important, so students don’t focus too narrowly on what her problem is right now.”
Hirvela and Woywod developed the series with support from the Helen Daniels Bader Fund, and they worked with the school’s Center for Aging Research and Education to make the series freely available to other schools and colleges of nursing. Woywod is pleased that students in nursing school across the country may soon meet Millie and learn about the intricacies and the joys of gerontological practice.
“Developing students’ critical thinking skills is essential to ensuring that our graduates are prepared to address the complexities of older adult needs, including transitions in care, out in the real world, ” Woywod says. “Millie makes that learning more personal, more authentic and, we expect, more successful.”