Fort Hays State University to help fill nurse shortage with new simulation lab

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“Are you having a little pain today,” asked Marley Palmer.

“A little bit,” her patient responded.

Fort Hays State University student Marley Palmer said she’s always dreamed of becoming a nurse.

However, she is one of the few wanting to care for patients in rural Kansas, forcing a significant shortage.

“Just at my facility, I have about a 10 percent vacancy rate, which is larger than we’ve seen in a long time,” Terry Siek,  VP of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at HaysMed said. “It’s probably the number one thing that keeps me from having restful sleep.”

A decline years in the making, and one that is expected to continue.

“The deficit in nurses is to be in excessive of 6,000,” he said. That’s by 2020.

Director of Special Population with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Cynthia Snyder also said almost 90 percent of the state is experiencing some type of medical shortage.

“We have 93 out of 105 counties in shortage areas,” she said for general care. 

Fort Hays State University and HaysMed opened its new nursing simulation lab and hospital Monday.

The goal for the building is to help alleviate the shortage by giving students better resources and more clinical time with patients.

Nursing Department Chair Jenny Manry said the renovation cost $800,000 with the help from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.

“We got a $250,000 grant,” she said.  

It includes a clinic space, skills lab space and a five room hospital wing.

She said each of the three sections comes with computerized dummies or patients for the students to work with.

“The dummies can sweat, cry, have seizures, talk,” she said. You can give them EKG’s and give them heart attacks. They can wheeze. You can hear heart and lung sounds. You can hear bowel sounds.

Each mannequin or dummy cost around $45,000 to $75,000.

“There’s a newborn baby, pregnant patient, child and adult to work with,” Palmer said.

Manry said she hopes this new renovation will better equip future nurses and encourage others to pursue nursing.

“I’m hoping to attract students from the areas that are most experiencing the shortages,” she said. “And we can best educate them and send them back.”

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