Georgia College's nursing program received an upgrade this semester.

In May, the program celebrated the grand opening of the Georgia College School of Nursing Simulation and Translational Research Center.

Students began studying in the center in August. The center is a product of a collaboration between Georgia College and Navicent Health Baldwin.

The center allows students to simulate real-life medical situations in a consequence-free environment.

"In real life, nurses base their practice off of experience," said center director Dr. Sterling Roberts. "This gives a nursing student experience to base that off of in the future. They’ve encountered having to insert a nasogastric tube or an IV before without it being at the expense of a patient."

Junior nursing student, Hannah Gutkowski, said the environment requires students to think on their own and gives them the opportunity to act as a practicing nurse, unlike a clinical situation.

"It’s a lot different. You don’t feel as much like a nurse, you’re just like a follower when you’re in the actual clinical, but you're actually the nurse here and they rely on your thinking and your application."

Beth Riecenger, another junior nursing student, said the program does a lot for her confidence.

"It makes me feel more comfortable in the actual hospital setting," Riecenger said. "I’m more confident in what I do and more confident in the skills that I have."

The nursing students get to use new technology like high tech mannequins that can simulate a variety of human interactions including vomiting, urinating, and sweating. The mannequins can even respond to certain questions, giving nursing students impressions of what they may see in real life. Nurse practitioners are also brought in to act out practiced situations.

Roberts said the simulation and translational center is a prime place to show students situations that they may not see until long after they have graduated with nursing degrees.

"In nursing we have things that are considered high risk and low volume incidents or diseases that you might encounter," Roberts said. "As far as that’s concerned in simulation though we can put students through experiences that are considered to be high risk that they may not encounter for years until their practicing nurses, but here they can have that experience to learn from and pull from in the future."

Director of the school of nursing, Dr. Deborah MacMillan, said the center was created to challenge the status quo in nursing education.

"We know that nursing education is changing," MacMillan said. "In the past we would tend to have what we call a skills lab where students went in and they were taught specific skills such as starting an IV, putting in a catheter, a chest tube, but it was very static situation that was not realistic in terms of what would happen in the hospital."

Each semester, four cohorts of 55 to 60 students are brought into the center. All nursing students in the Georgia College School of Nursing are required to complete a certain number of hours in the simulation center and in a clinical setting.