Cherokee students follow Pathways to WCU for day of nursing

Above: Cherokee High School students Amanda Sequoyah (left) and Sadie Standingdeer (center) monitor the heart beat of a simulated patient while Vanessa Grant (right) adjusts controls of the computerized mannequin in a nursing lab at WCU in Cullowhee.

Above: Cherokee High School students Amanda Sequoyah (left) and Sadie Standingdeer (center) monitor the heart beat of a simulated patient while Vanessa Grant (right) adjusts controls of the computerized mannequin in a nursing lab at WCU in Cullowhee.

The lifelike mannequins in Western Carolina University’s nursing department help students get used to the idea of probing and prodding human patients without the threat of causing harm to a real person. Sadie Standingdeer, a Cherokee High School senior who recently visited Western for a day, was impressed.

“It surprised me how much you could do with a mannequin – watch it breathe and check its vital signs,” Standingdeer said after a recent visit to the nursing department’s patient simulation laboratory in the Haynes Center on the Enka campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

Standingdeer, who intends to become a registered nurse, was one of about 20 health-occupation students invited to Western for a daylong “nursing immersion” program as part of a project called Pathways to Our Future. The project, funded by a $19,420 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation to Western’s College of Applied Sciences, is designed to help students explore nursing and other career possibilities in the field of health care.

Through the program, Sharon Metcalfe, assistant professor of nursing at Western, has been working with the students and their teacher at Cherokee High School every week for about four months. Metcalfe serves as a sort of “nurse navigator,” making connections between the students and special activities they can learn from. She coordinated the immersion day, which started with presentations in Cherokee, continued on Western’s campus in Cullowhee, and ended with lab experiences in Enka.

Standingdeer, who has been accepted to Western and one other university, said she enjoyed the day packed full of a typical nursing student’s routine. “I wanted to get a taste of what it would be like to go to college. It’s been pretty cool, being able to experience it all,” she said.

“We’re hoping this will be the start of a strong connection with these students,” Metcalfe said. Students in Western’s RN to BSN program also have served as mentors to the younger students, she said. Next year, Metcalfe hopes to involve various Cherokee health care leaders in the project, as well.

The virtual training lab in Enka visited by the Cherokee students features computerized mannequins controlled by instructors at nearby computers who can test students with a variety of patient care situations that mirror what professionals can expect in caring for real patients.

Professors can make each computerized mannequin breathe, adjust its heart beat and blood pressure, change its respiration pattern, cause its tongue to swell, and make it talk – all with the punch of button on a keyboard. The lab was made possible by a grant of nearly $400,000 from the Duke Endowment to WCU, A-B Tech and Mission Hospitals. Similar mannequins are in use in WCU health sciences classrooms in Cullowhee.

For more information about Western’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing, call (828) 227-7467 or go to http://www.wcu.edu/academics/departments-schools-colleges/HHS/hhs-schools-depts/nursing/index.asp.