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Learning in the nursing skills labs


Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Course: BSc (Hons) Child Nursing
Category: Nursing and midwifery

18 December 2018

How do nursing students learn the skills they need to start clinical placements? Child Nursing student Abbi introduces you to the skills lab facilities at ARU.

There are a variety of ways that nursing students learn the skills we need before we going out into our placement settings. One of most practical ways we learn is through the skills labs.

What is a nursing skills lab?

A skills lab is an artificial environment which is organised precisely how a real-life hospital ward presents. In my case it mirrors a children's ward as I'm studying Child Nursing.

Here is a picture of our child nursing skills lab at Anglia Ruskin University. 

Neo-natal skills lab

When child nursing students go into the skills labs, we have to abide by the uniform policies of real-life hospitals. This means we have to wear a tunic, smart trousers, appropriate shoes and our hair has to be tied back. I think this is a really good way of getting used to wearing our uniforms; our tutors are also able to tell us before we go into practice whether how we present is suitable for the workplace.

What skills do you learn in the lab?

The nursing skills labs enable us to practice skills such as bed making, injection administration, communication, moving and handling and personal care before going on placement and looking after real patients.

Although some of these skills sounds very easy, ie bed making, I was surprised at how difficult it is to get hospital beds made properly in a very limited time period. By learning all these skills before going into placement we are also ensuring that we are providing safe and accurate care to our patients, as the Nursing and Midwifery Council states all nurses and midwives should do.

So how do we practice our skills? We have a range of mannekins from babies, to toddlers, to full-grown children, to adults. The great things about our mannekins is that we have so many (it is like being in a hospital): a different one shows up to every skills sessions.

Here are a few photos of our mannekins: 

Baby Mannequins

Do student nurses use medical equipment?

Another great thing about our mannekins is that we can attach them to machinery such as a pulse oximeters. This lets our tutors produce artificial observations and we can learn what we should do if we were to meet children with certain conditions. For example, children’s nurses often meet children who have asthma.

emergency care machine

A child who is having an asthma attack may have decreased saturations, which we can portray on the machines. Nurses often give a drug called salbutamol to those having an asthma attack. An effect of salbutamol is tachycardia (increased heart rate) which can also be shown on the machines. We can also set up some of our mannekins so that we can feel their pulses, which is a very strange thing, but a great way of learning what a pulse should feel like.

We also have a range of specialised equipment very similar to those we will be using within our practice settings. An example is neonatal resuscitaire, which are often used for premature babies or smaller babies who have problems either at birth or usually before they are one year old.

Other equipment helps us to learn skills such as handwashing and hygiene with sinks, alcohol gel, wipes and personal protective equipment (PPE). We also have clinical waste bins and sharps bins to practice disposing of clinical waste properly.

skills material

We can also practice skills such as preparing intravenous medications (this is an IV stand), listening to chest sounds with stethoscopes and using the weighing scales and height equipment, which is very important for drug calculations and growth and development.

Are skills labs used in assessments?

One particular way we use the skills labs is when we are assessed. During OSCEs (objective structured clinical examination) we could be given a scenario, for example a child with asthma, and are asked to respond to the child depending on the observations (on the pulse oximeter).

I feel that this is a really good way of learning what to do in a real-life situation, as it puts us on the spot and ensures we can use the theory we've learn and put it into practice. It also means that we can get used the ways we use certain pieces of equipment that we potentially may not be exposed to in our practice settings - for example, not all students may get to go to the neonatal unit, so may not see a neonatal resuscitaire.

I really enjoy our lessons in the nursing skills labs; I have learnt lots of skills which have been vital for my practice placement. Without the skills labs I fell I would not have been exposed to many of the things I will face as a staff nurse.

Study nursing at ARU

Find out more about our nursing degrees, and studying at ARU, at one of our Open Days.

We've been training nurses and other healthcare professionals for more than 25 years, and you can choose to specialise in adult nursing, child nursing or mental health nursing with us.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.