Given the elaborate emergencies she stages, Shannon Patton could surely work in Hollywood if she weren’t a nursing instructor. She’ll apply things like makeup, black cherry pie filling, chewed-up Tootsie Rolls, and odor spray to a medical mannequin, stopping at nothing to make the scenes look real.
In the nursing world, these scenes are called moulage. At UT, they are especially realistic. Here, state-of-the-art mannequins controlled by remote can display different heart rates and even simulate labor and delivery. Patton takes full advantage. When they confront such situations in the real world, her nurses need to be able to feel like they’ve handled them before.
They also need to be able to address every process and function of the body without embarrassment. “If you can’t talk about them in the classroom,” Patton says, “you aren’t going to be able to talk about them with the patient.”
So Patton tells stories from her own career. She’s been working for 40 years, many of them in nursing. Growing up, she often sat with sick neighbors, and in high school she was a member of the both the Future Nurses and the Future Teachers of America.
She shares stories about everything she’s seen since, even from the experience of caring for her ailing grandmother, with hopes of making students more prepared. “It’s interesting because students years later will remember what I said because of the stories,” she says.
Caring can’t be taught. Professionalism can. But critical thinking is what separates great nurses from decent ones. Above all, Patton wants her students to be able to think on their feet, she says, “so whatever situation they’re put in, they can throw away the extraneous information and focus on what’s important.”
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