Nursing students perform CPR on a patient experiencing cardiac arrest.
By Aleksandra Sidorova
SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi cut a red ribbon held up by Provost Anne Herzog and nursing student Trishelle Lewis Monday, Feb. 20. This gesture signified the end of the year-long renovation of the Damianos nursing simulation lab in Hawkins Hall.
Officially called the Dr. Xenophon and Virginia Sturrock Damianos Nursing Skills Laboratory, the lab honors ‘51 and ‘50 alumni respectively.
The renovation spanned the course of an entire academic year and two summers, beginning in the summer of 2021 and ending in the summer of 2022. The lab is “almost exact” to the original construction plans, Assistant Professor of Nursing Heather Moussa said. For the entire calendar year that the lab was under construction, students used a “makeshift” lab in the Hawkins Hall basement, Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Shannon Hanshaw said.
Students have been using the renovated lab in Hawkins 255 throughout the fall 2022 semester, but the department decided to postpone the official launch due to pandemic-related supply chain issues and needing to sort out some construction “kinks,” such as straightening the floor.
The Damianos nursing simulation lab was designed to imitate a real hospital, Simulation and Laboratory Coordinator Michaela Davison said. It has four rooms, each with a different type of patient: a laboring mother with a baby; two children, ages 1 and 5; a critical care patient and a “typical patient,” as Moussa said.
The patients are high-fidelity manikins. The term “fidelity” refers to the manikins’ ability to mimic human bodies. They have pulses students can hear and feel, heartbeats and pupils that can constrict and dilate. They can also blink and follow nurses with their eyes.
“Pretty much, most of the functions of your human body they are capable of doing,” Davison said.
Before it was renovated, the lab was one big room with nothing to separate the patients from each other, except curtains in the laboring patient’s corner. Each room is equipped with basic caregiving and charting tools, including a headwall with a fake oxygen mask and working suction, as well as a laptop. The lab also has a storage room, which students can get supplies and medication from, like they would in a real hospital.
The difference, however, is that the high-fidelity simulation lab allows students to make “safe errors,” Davison said. She said nursing students without registered nurse licenses have restrictions as to what they may assist with, placed upon them by the state, university and medical facility they are working in.
“As much as we want to believe these are real people, they’re not,” Davison said. “So you are able to make mistakes and learn from them.”
Dr. Shannon Hanshaw controls the simulations from another room within the lab.
Nursing students enter medical simulations after a briefing on basic information about the patient and their condition. Once they’re in the patient’s room, they are on their own — their instructor manages the simulation from a separate control room, observing the students live on a computer monitor. The instructor can control the patient’s vitals and can respond either with pre-programmed responses, such as ‘Ouch!’ or speak through a microphone on the patient’s behalf.
When students are done with a simulation, they gather in debriefing rooms to review footage of their response to the simulation and reflect on their experiences and choices.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured speeches from Dr. Denise Simard, dean of the School of Education, Health and Human Services, Hanshaw and Enyedi.
“Very early in my role as dean, an assistant professor walked into my office and he handed me a roll of CAD drawing, and he said, ‘I want a new lab for our faculty and our students,’” Simard said in her speech. “Six years later, here we are. We have a new lab.”
Simard also mentioned that New York State Assemblyman Billy Jones, representing District 115, is working to pass legislation that would allow for lab simulations to comprise up to 30% of nursing students’ clinical hours. Enyedi said he gave Jones a private tour of the facility last week.
Toward the end of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Enyedi asked students working with the simulations physiology questions.
The renovation cost close to $1 million, according to Anne Hansen, executive director of the Plattsburgh College Foundation, which in part sponsored the renovation project. $500,000 was from the New York Construction Fund, and $200,000 was from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The remainder came from two donors to SUNY Plattsburgh. One bequest of $172,000 is from ‘95 nursing alumnus Neal Andrews, who died in 2016. Virginia and Xenophon Damianos made continual gifts to the university throughout their lifetimes, amounting to more than $300,000, all of which went either to the original simulation lab or its renovation. Additionally, the Plattsburgh College Foundation received an anonymous donation of $100,000 in response to the renovation, to go toward developing the nursing curriculum and training faculty to handle the new equipment.
Virginia Damianos died in 2009 at the age of 81. Her obituary described her “undying commitment to the university.” Virginia “Jinny” and Xenophon “Jim” Damianos met while studying in Plattsburgh and were married for 52 years. Virginia Damianos received the Once in a Century Alumni Award in 1986, and they both received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995.
“The laboratory serves as a permanent tribute to their generosity and their love for SUNY Plattsburgh, its students, and its mission,” Virginia Damianos’ obituary read.