Vital Signs Evaluations...

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Hi there! From all you who have passed your vital signs assessments, (some of you a couple of semesters back) I need some advice!

Our lab classes are in groups, and the first group went today. Anyway, most of the students said they had practiced all week, and that they felt confident in their abilities. However, when it came time for bp eval, students were thrown a curve with a computerized dummy. (no one had seen this dummy before, as it had been secreted away in some out of the way place) Out of 20 students, many of whom are already CNA's, and one who is an actual pediatrician (long story, she's licensed in another country and can't practice here for some reason) 13 FAILED! (one CNA failed taking a tympanic temp) Most gave the reason that the dummy arm was "weird" or that the sound of the dummy's heartbeat sounded too much like what they had taught us was friction on the stethoscope.

I am from the second group, and will be evaluated on Thursday. My question: Should I ask/demand that I be allowed time to practice on this dummy? Most of the students say they are sure that if they had a chance to use the dummy before, they would have passed.

I'm now completely freaked out! We get three chances in 10 days to pass, (as long as one of the instructors has time to test you again) and I just want to get it right the first time, and put it behind me, you know? Especially since we are moving on with physical (head to toe) assessments this week.




820 Posts

Caroline, I know this is freaking you out, and it is going to be rough... but this is my opinion, and please take it, or leave it, as it is only one persons opinion.

I think that it would be wrong to allow you to practice on the dummy if the first group was not given that opportunity. If you were in the first group, wouldnt you be upset that the second group got to practice when you were not given that chance?

Computerized dummies can really be a challenge, but you will have MANY challenges ahead of you. :) They would not expect something out of you if they did not think it was possible to accomplish it the first try.

In real life... some patients are so skinny, with no SQ fat, and they heartbeats can almost be heard in their feet (exaggeration, but you get the idea). It is a technique that must be practiced again and again to be accurate at it. Do you have a friend outside of class that you can practice on? You can never try too many people. Everyone you know is a guinea pig! Bribe them if you have to! Get them to let you practice on them. BPs are tricky if you have trouble understanding what you are trying to hear.

Take a few deep breaths, make sure your scope is firmly in your ear canals, and block out everything else in the room.

Keep on open mind, and your chin up. Close your eyes a little if that helps, and above all... relax. You will do terrific!

Good Luck!



1,334 Posts

Specializes in NICU.

Though they would never admit it, I bet your professors are starting to wonder why 13 out of 20 students failed. When that many fail you have to stop and consider that there may be a flaw in the test. It would be interesting to see what they say after all students have taken the test, because chances are more will fail.

Beyond that, I think I would be a little peeved if I was in the first group and failed, then others got to practice when I didn't. BUT-- it is YOUR education and YOUR grade (and YOUR money paying for it) and so I think you might want to at least ask to practice. Just realize others may not like it. Another option would be to approach the people that did pass and pick their brain as to what the heartbeat sounded like, etc. Then maybe you can try to listen accordingly during your test.

Maybe if a lot of people fail they will allow you to take your test on actual people. This is very strange...I'm guessing you learned on actual people and you will be performing this on actual people in the hospital, so why the dummies? Did they say?


263 Posts

Hi Brandy and KRVRN, thanks for your replies!

You are both right of course, that for our group to get a chance to practice on these dummies would be unfair to the others, and since our class is starting out with such great camaraderie, I wouldn't want to spoil that.

That said, many of the students I talked to who took the test are pretty upset, but most chalk it up as the first of many situations they will have to get used to. :)

KRVRN, in regards to what you said about the instructors wondering why so many failed, that's exactly what I was thinking earlier. I wonder if there was some sort of error on the part of the dummies? But then again, I'm pretty confident that the people in charge are competent and would have checked something like that. But you are correct in that they would "never admit it." :D

In answer to your question about how we learned, yep..we learned on actual people. No one was even aware of "Mr. Hand" (I'm assuming it's just an arm from people's descriptions.) ;)

There has been no explanation, as far as I'm aware, as to why they chose to use the dummy when we had all practiced on real people, and I do think it's unfair that we weren't given at least one shot at using this tool. I don't understand that, especially since the sounds are obviously so different from those of real people.

I'm hoping that if the majority of our group fails as well, someone in charge will decide to allow us to do bp's on each other, or at the very least allow us all extra time with the dummy.

Anyway, thanks for listening to me vent!


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