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Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Nurses get an extra hand to teach blood pressure checks

Instructors teaching new nurses how to take care of hospital patients just got an extra hand in the classroom, literally.

A human arm is the usual tool used to teach the skill of checking blood pressure. Because some people have lower and quieter blood flow than others often makes it difficult for first timers to know what they are listening for. A new mannequin just donated by Marshall North’s hospital auxiliary lets teachers program a simulated arm to a specific blood pressure rate and adjust the volume to a level easy to hear.

“I love it,” says Lisa Bearden, director of education at Marshall Medical Center North. “I’ve struggled for years teaching students who have never heard a blood pressure before. Now if they don’t hear it, I can turn up the volume.”

Bearden shared her need for the high-tech piece of equipment with the Hospital Auxiliary, the group that raises money through jewelry and book sales, as well as the hospital gift shop. They purchased the $1,300 arm and donated it to the hospital.

Diane Butler, director of volunteer services at Marshall North, says the group was happy to help.

“The Auxiliary designated giving funds back to the hospital when it was established,” Butler says.  “We have fundraising events and we make a profit from the gift shop sales.  Departments send in requests for a particular item. When it is approved by administration, the auxiliary votes and, if approved, it is bought.”

Before the hospital got the simulated arm, they used a blood pressure cuff with a double-ended stethoscope, which allowed two people to listen at once. Now with the simulator, Bearden can clearly see if her student is hearing the blood pressure and whether they can correctly determine the rate.  

Emily Woodruff, a nursing student at Jacksonville State University, took CPR Certification from Bearden and got the opportunity to learn to check blood pressure using the simulated arm. 

“The arm was very helpful because it allowed her to learn how to take a manual blood pressure easily,” says Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Woodruff, who is also Emily’s mother. “Lisa was there to monitor her but the machine actually told her whether she got the correct numbers or not.”

Bearden teaches the basics of patient care to all new nurses and patient care assistants hired to work at Marshall North. Every two weeks a new set of nurses and assistants come through the classroom.

“I make sure they know the basic skills involved before they start providing patient care at the bedside,” she says.

Many skills are taught to new employees during orientation, including personal hygiene, bed-making, vital sign assessment and how to operate a hospital bed.    

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