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COLUMBIA - A group of nurses hear the words, "I've never felt this much pain." Suddenly a heart stops beating and they launch into a carefully choreographed CPR. It could be a matter of life and death, except this is not a living patient. It's a simulation dummy and the nurses are just training.

Friday marks the end of what's known as Immersion Week an orientation program for new nurses who are starting with less than six months of clinical experience at the University of Missouri.

Nurses worked with both simulation dummies and actors to practice how to react when someone’s life is on the line.

“The simulations really help with feeling as you are in those situations and figuring out what to do. You can read it in a textbook all day long, but until you are actually put in a situation you don’t know how it feels,” Lauren Jones, a nurse working in the Neuroscience ICU, said.

The 32-hour program kicks off MU Health Care’s year-long residency. During the week, nurses go through patient-care scenarios, attend lectures and develop relationships with mentors.

The coordinator of clinical education, Stephanie Hunt, said the last day of Immersion Week is when nurses combine all the skills they learn in the simulation labs, creating mental memories in a safe environment.  

Joseph Comfort, a nurse working on the internal medicine floor at University Hospital, said the group practices things that should be second-nature to them when responding to emergencies.

“Working in the simulation labs teaches us who to call, how to activate the different code responses whether it’s a stroke or heart attack and knowing where and how to access the resources we need to provide life-saving care to a lot of these patients,” Comfort said.

Immersion Week is unique to MU Health Care. It happens three times a year and aligns with when most nurses graduate. After Immersion Week, nurses continue to meet with educators once a month for four hours to both brush up on their skills and continue learning.

“Going through this week with other new nurses definitely lets us feel like we can support each other. Often one of our coworkers will have a question that maybe we just didn’t know how to ask,” Comfort said.