Lena Choudhary, JD, MS, RN, is an associate professor of nursing at Montgomery College and has taught at the bachelor's and graduate level for nearly a decade. She has presented at numerous conferences and faculty and student forums. Her specialty is in public health nursing, particularly vulnerable populations both domestic and international, with a content focus on legal and ethical issues in nursing and worksite environments. Her experience with the Forage Center is supported by her continued professional development in nursing simulation, which has grown in use tremendously in the last 10 years. Here, she reflects on her experiences in conversation with Forage Center administrative specialist Catherine Cousar.
Q: How has your experience in nursing and public health influenced your work with the Forage Center?
A: I had a sense of what needs a struggling population may have medically, socially, and emotionally following displacement. This led me to research questions regarding how this applies to IDPs. Then I was able to integrate these issues — for instance property rights, or the ability to continue a child's education, or the ability to reach a family member who is jailed in the home country — into the curriculum and objectives of our simulations. I have worked on simulations in nursing that deal with mass casualty, and I was able to apply these medical decisions to IDPs in a nonmedical environment with limited resources and skills. I also have quite of bit of training in creating simulations, pre-briefing, and debriefing in nursing. There are very specific ways to accomplish these components. Having this experience has provided me with an understanding of how simulation should and should not be used. I am able to implement the components of a simulation using best practices to help the students reach the objectives set.
Q: Has your work with the Forage Center influenced your approach to teaching public health nursing at Montgomery College?
A: Ethics in simulation has not been addressed by the simulation in education community. I have seen when students have become distressed during a simulation. This has allowed me to be a voice for restraint when simulations are created, to ask whether we as a team are considering the emotional and psychological well-being of our students even in a simulated environment. It has also allowed me the experience to work with local community emergency response teams. Q: What is your favorite story from a Forage Center field training exercise?
A: One year out, students were required to cook their own meals, with instructions and ingredients that were all freeze-dried and safe in a non-refrigerated environment. It included complete meals, such as chili, and ingredients like dried peanut butter powder. All the students had to do was either add water or boil water, and stir. Some students were not too familiar with this type of product, and after they added the spice packets to the chicken tetrazzini and were about to feed the entire camp, we noticed that the spice packets had some interesting warnings. They stated, "Do not open," "Not safe for consumption," and "These packets contain a non-edible absorbent to insure the ingredients remain dry during storage." The students had put the moisture-absorbent packets into the food. We had to throw it all out! Many people were not happy about this. My thought was, "Wow, these students may be able to assist people who are ill and traumatized, but they themselves may starve to death because they cannot cook."