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Video: Alum got real experience in nursing simulation lab

Even though it was a fake patient, the anxiety was certainly real.

Cheryl Carmack, B.S.N. ’02, M.S.N. ’12, vividly remembers what it was like to put her first IV in a patient simulator at Mennonite College of Nursing’s high-tech Nursing Simulation Lab.

“It was probably the scariest thing I had ever done,” she said. “It’s still terrifying, and then it’s exhilarating when you get it and learn it, and someone’s there helping you. There’s faculty and staff all around.”

Later, when Carmack did her first IV on a real patient at a hospital, it felt the same as her mannequin.

“That way you’re not intimidated in front of a real patient the first time,” said Carmack.

Cheryl Carmack talks to students in the lab

Illinois State nursing alum Cheryl Carmack, center, with students during a recent visit to the lab.

Like all Illinois State nursing graduates, Carmack honed her skills in the simulation lab before going out into the real world for her clinical practice. The lab exposes students to the actual equipment and scenarios they’ll face in the real world—including the anxiety of starting your first IV.

All undergraduate and graduate students in the Mennonite College of Nursing use the lab. The realistic lab helps students be less afraid of the environment so they can focus on their No. 1 priority—the patient.

“We try to take the real-world environment and turn it into a safe place where our students can learn, grapple with difficult concepts, make mistakes, and learn from them,” said Teri Rizzo, B.S.N. ’13, the nursing simulation lab’s coordinator who trained in the lab herself.

Carmack trained in the lab as an undergraduate student, and later worked there as an instructor while pursuing her family nurse practitioner master’s degree. Today, the first-generation college student works as an urgent care nurse practitioner for a health system in Bloomington-Normal.

She says the simulation lab made her a better nursing professional in many different ways.

“The Mennonite College of Nursing will change your life,” Carmack said. “The faculty here, the lab here—these are all things you need to be successful in nursing.”

Contact the editor of STATEside at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.

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