When Bertie Chuong ’82 MS, RN first visited the new simulation lab in the UConn School of Nursing, she was excited to discover a healthcare setting with realistic high-tech mannequins. With help from Simulation Lab technicians, the mannequins can breathe, move, and even say “ouch” when poked with an IV.
These life-like patients can be programmed to simulate a real nursing scenario. The technician can program the mannequin to tell the nursing student that they are not feeling well, then suddenly have the mannequin’s heart start to race and blood pressure drop.
“This is great because you can have the nursing student think critically and then react,” Chuong said. This type of training is critical to developing assessment skills and building confidence as a novice nurse, she said. In today’s practice settings, students need to have this simulation experience before starting in the workplace, so that they can be more comfortable with their basic skills.
Chuong was so impressed with the simulation lab’s mannequins and other forward-looking features that she recently decided to endow a fund to support it. The funds are earmarked specifically for the simulation lab and may be used, for example, to buy new equipment for it or hire personnel to work in the lab.
“I’m doing this to help maintain UConn’s state-of-the art nursing program, to continue what has been a stellar program,” Chuong said. “I think it’s just so important to continue to support the school that you graduated from.”
Chuong has built a successful career as a nurse manager, nurse director and educator at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she has worked ever since earning her masters at UConn. She initially managed a staff of 75 in the medical intensive care unit. More recently she shared governance of the entire nursing staff as the resource and education coordinator.
Her gift, the Bertie Chuong Endowed Fund for Nursing, will help the school to continue to provide cutting-edge training in the simulation lab, said Regina Cusson, dean of the School of Nursing.
“Bertie’s generous support is forward-thinking,” Cusson said. “It will help us provide the latest and best training to future generations of nursing students.”
In addition to the simulation lab, the Nursing School’s new wing also features classrooms, exam rooms where students can practice on each other and real patients, and simulated hospital rooms outfitted with IV poles, hospital beds, and other equipment.
“It’s just such a great learning environment,” Chuong said.
She has fond memories of her days in UConn’s graduate nursing program.
“My time at UConn was wonderful because we had great instructors and really enthusiastic students,” she said. “I made some extremely good friends at the time. I met faculty who I continue to be friendly with and have been wonderful mentors throughout the years. The faculty was right there on the cutting edge of what was going on in nursing.”
Chuong grew up in Rye, N.Y and graduated from Cornell University, where she originally planned to major in British history. Realizing that it might be difficult to find a job, her parents urged her to switch to a more practical major, so she ventured into nursing.
As an active alum, she regularly comes to campus to attend Nursing School events and cheer on the women’s basketball team. She and her husband, Jackie, a gastroenterologist, live in Guilford with their black lab, Emma.