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High-Tech Bus Puts Students on Road to Nursing

Mobile Lab to Travel to Local Schools

Jacqueline Dowling
Mastermind behind the idea for the grant, Prof. Jacqueline Dowling is one of the nursing faculty members who will drive the mobile laboratory to Lowell and Lawrence schools and community centers.

By Karen Angelo

What better way to get high school students excited about the nursing profession than to give them hands-on experience?

UMass Lowell nursing faculty is taking this idea on the road in the form of a 34-foot bus that is home to two realistic mannequins – birthing mother “Noelle” and newborn “Hal.” By simulating functions of the human body such as breathing, crying, talking and assuming medical conditions, the high-tech mannequins offer students a fun and intriguing way to find out if the nursing profession for them.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the UMass Lowell Nursing Department a $298,990 grant for the “On the Move for Nursing’s Future” mobile simulation laboratory to reach out to diverse and underserved populations in the Merrimack Valley.

“Despite the current down economy, the shortage of nurses is still expected to be significant as the population ages,” says nursing Prof. Jacqueline Dowling, who is the project’s lead manager. “With this mobile laboratory, we’re able to bring the technology into the community and have the students interact with the patient simulators in a way that will engage them.”

Nursing Faculty Drive Bus

Nursing faculty will drive the bus to scheduled open bus tours at schools and community centers in Lowell and Lawrence to demonstrate what it is like to work in the nursing profession and share information about how to get started in the career. The faculty members expect to reach hundreds of high school and community college students per year, as well as employees of area health agencies.

The mobile laboratory, which is parked behind Weed Hall, will also be used as an adjunct simulation laboratory for existing UMass Lowell students.

The U.S. nursing shortage is projected to grow to 260,000 registered nurses by 2025 – twice as large as any such shortage since the mid-1960s – because of the aging baby boomer population. 


Check out a photo gallery of the new nursing bus. 

Chair of the Nursing Department Karen Devereaux Melillo talks to a student about the patient simulators.