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The cover of the Spring 2007 SF State Magazine features two penguins, heads bent together as they view their offspring on the ground below.

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Two students with stethoscopes in their ears practice on "Mr. Pang," a flesh-toned simulated patient, as nursing instructor Bea Montoya taps a keyboard.Simulating Experiences

Bea Montoya introduces her nursing students to their first patient of the day, Mr. Pang. The 76-year-old man is apost-myocardial infarction patient. Montoya reads off his meds and explains he has no known allergies.

"My chest hurts," Mr. Pang says, coughing. "I feel really bad." His breathing becomes slow, labored.

Senior Ann Garcia (below, center) uses her stethoscope to listen to his chest and hears fluid. After a quick consult with Montoya, she administers Lasix to help flush the fluid away. Just minutes later, her patient flatlines. Garcia looks to her instructor, who assures her she did everything she could. But even so, her patient has expired.

Fortunately Mr. Pang is not a real person. He is one of two simulators made of plastic, wires and computer chips that aid in nursing training at SF State. Confronted with a host of lifelike features -- a chest that rises and falls, a human voice that responds to questions, and leads attached to a working heart and lung monitor -- it's easy to forget that this is just a training exercise.

For the past three years, the simulators have been helping SF State nursing students build confidence and practice their skills before they graduate. Nursing students provide care for simulators programmed to exhibit symptoms of medical problems including asthma, stroke and anaphylaxis. A critique follows each scenario.

The simulators respond to appropriate treatments and "recover" from illness. They can also be programmed to expire -- even if students do everything correctly. The training exercises supplement students' required clinical hours with real patients in neighboring hospitals, where they might not encounter high-risk situations.

Efforts to counter a nationwide shortage of nurses will soon give students even more opportunities for training. "Right now we're admitting 12 to 15 percent of our applicants," explains Andrea Boyle, interim director of the School of Nursing. "We turn away hundreds of extremely well-qualified applicants in part because we face a shortage of clinical opportunities and space to educate clinicians."

Construction will soon be underway on a new training facility inside Burk Hall that will address both of these concerns. Next year nursing students will practice their skills in a large simulated hospital wing with an observation room for faculty and additional high-tech mannequins.

The renovation is SF State's latest effort to meet the high demand for clinicians. Three years ago the University launched a program that allows students to earn their SF State Bachelor of Science in nursing at Cañada College's facilities. The program brings SF State faculty to Cañada and accommodates an additional 40 students a year, who receive clinical opportunities at nearby Sequoia Hospital.

Interested in supporting the training of nurses and nursing instructors? Go to www.sfsu.edu and click on "Give to SFSU."

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Last modified June 19, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications