|Sister Mary Sarah Galbreath, O.P., president of Aquinas College, speaks to the college’s nursing students and benefacotrs during the dedication of the new Castello Nursing Simulation Center for the college at Saint Thomas Hospital West. Photo by Andy Telli
Aquinas College and Saint Thomas Hospital West have again partnered to improve the education of nurses with the dedication of the Castello Nursing Simulation Learning Center on April 13.
The center, which is located at Saint Thomas West next to the Aquinas campus, has 24 fully equipped rooms, including hospital rooms, a nursery and a bedroom representing a home health care visit, that will allow nursing students to practice what they are learning in the classroom.
“We learn theory in the classroom at Aquinas and apply it here in the simulation center,” said Nick Perry, an Aquinas nursing student. “It’s very close to the real thing,” which increases the students’ confidence and reduces their stress when they are working in real hospitals, he added.
“It’s a real gift because we’re into the area of making sure our students are competent clinicians,” said Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P., dean of the School of Nursing at Aquinas. “We have some moral responsibility to make sure our graduates are ready to practice.”
Saint Thomas is hoping the simulation center will train nurses that can help it meet its mission as a Catholic hospital, said Marco Fernandez, Associate Chief of Nursing Officer of Saint Thomas West Hospital and an Aquinas nursing program graduate.
“We feel the need to provide health care from a Catholic perspective. We need more nurses trained in that tradition,” Fernandez said. “The partnership with Aquinas has helped us provide a pool of nurses to meet that need.”
According to Brother Ignatius, “It is a center where human dignity, freedom and human flourishing in the Catholic and Dominican tradition will govern learning and the formation of healers for our world, not the enshrinement of the technological imperative in health care.”
For centuries, nurses have been caring for people in the margins of society, Brother Ignatius said. The center is named for one such person, Blessed Margaret of Castello, Italy.
She was blind, a dwarf, hunch-backed with one leg shorter than the other. Her family was embarrassed by her birth defects and kept her isolated from people. Eventually, they left her at the Dominican monastery at Castello.
“After a few years of living the Dominican life, Margaret left the monastery and began her ministry as a lay Dominican Sister caring for the sick, the abandoned, the unloved, the dying and those who were without hope,” Brother Ignatius said. “Margaret of Castello’s life is emblematic of the charism attributed to St. Dominic and his brothers and sisters, ‘consolers of the sick and those in distress.’”
The name for the nursery in the simulation center, where students will learn to care for mothers and their newborns, infants and children, draws on the history of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, who own and operate Aquinas. The St. Mary’s Nursery is named after the orphanage the Dominicans operated in Nashville for more than 100 years, caring for children often abandoned or forgotten, Brother Ignatius said.
“They went out to the extremes of society to care for those in need,” Brother Ignatius said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do in nursing.”
The simulation center is outfitted to make the experience as real as possible for the students. A room for nurses to practice home health care looks like a person’s bedroom with their slippers beside the bed and bottles of medicine on the nightstand. “The nurse needs to remember they are the guest in a person’s home,” Brother Ignatius said.
The mannequins in the rooms that the nurses will use to practice their skills all have names “to help them understand I’m dealing with a human life,” Brother Ignatius said. “We want to make it as real as possible.”
All the programs in Aquinas’ School of Nursing, both graduate and undergraduate students, will use the simulation center, Brother Ignatius said.