Blue Devil of the Week: Simulated Patients, Real Results

Margie Molloy aims to give Duke nursing students authentic experiences

Margie Molloy, assistant professor in the Duke University School of Nursing, stands in the Center for Nursing Discovery, where she is the director. Photo by Stephen Schramm.
Margie Molloy, assistant professor in the Duke University School of Nursing, stands in the Center for Nursing Discovery, where she is the director. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

Name: Margie Molloy

Title: Assistant Professor, Duke University School of Nursing and Director of the Center for Nursing Discovery.

Years at Duke: 17

What she does: In addition to teaching classes in her assistant professor role, Molloy has overseen the Center for Nursing Discovery, a hi-tech simulation laboratory, for the past 10 years. The center, which consisted of one small lab and a single sophisticated manikin, has now grown into a facility that covers a wing of the School of Nursing’s Pearson Building and has roughly a dozen life-like, interactive manikins – and an array of other training devices – that can allow nursing students to encounter wide range of clinical situations such as routine checkups, heart attacks and childbirth.

The center also has technology that can loop in distance-based students from around the country and allow them to help with consultations of the simulated patient via a tablet on a Segway.

“The use of simulation has grown tremendously since I’ve been here,” Molloy said. “I’d say now, we’re on the cutting edge of the use of simulation in nursing education.

While it was once a small part of a nursing student’s path through the school, now every Duke University School of Nursing student spends plenty of time in the Center for Nursing Discovery.

“It helps with their confidence, it helps with their ability to transfer what they learn in the classroom to the lab and then the clinical settings,” Molloy said. “It’s very rewarding. And the students like coming to the lab because they consider it a safe place. You can’t kill the manikin, so we want them to step out of the box and be brave.”

What she loves about Duke: “I love the students,” Molloy said. “I am so student centered. They bring me joy and that’s the reason I come in the morning. I look forward to seeing them. The students are here with me for 16 months and I get to see the growth in them and it’s just tremendous.”

Manikins used for training are dressed up like Prince Harry and his bride Meghan Markle to celebrate this summer royal wedding. Photo courtesy of Margie Molloy.Memorable days at work: With student life at the School of Nursing featuring plenty of rigorous work, Molloy sees value in injecting a little light-hearted fun into the experience. So, a few times a year – usually coinciding with a holiday or major sporting event – Molloy and her colleagues will dress up some of the less-sophisticated manikins and construct fun scenes in the atrium of the Pearson Buildings. She’s had manikins dressed as vampires during a blood drive, there have been manikins sitting by tents in Duke gear in honor of Krzyzewskiville and, during the recent royal wedding, they had a pair dressed as Prince Harry and his bride Meghan Markle.

“The students really get a kick out of them,” Molloy said.

Meaningful item in her office: A small copper sign on Molloy’s office wall carries a short and simple message. The sign reads “I’m still learning.”

“I think the students believe we have all the answers, but I think it’s important that they know that we’re still learning, all of us. When we stop learning, that’s when we run into trouble.”

First job: As a teenager in Brooklyn, New York, Molloy worked at Burger King. She recalls the heat of the kitchen and the camaraderie of her co-workers.

“I learned a lot about teamwork because it could get very stressful,” Molloy said. “I remember the people I worked with to this day. I remember how important it was to come into work with a good attitude.”

Something most people don’t know about her: In the mid-1990s, Molloy and her husband Martin lived in Staten Island, New York, with their two children. Martin, who was born in Ireland and moved to New York as a teenager, grew tired of city life and started looking for a quieter place for his family to call home.

After reading a book about the best places to raise a family, he narrowed his list of potential destinations to Aurora, Colorado and Raleigh. Margie understood his desire to move, but didn’t quite get the seriousness of his scheme until she was driving to work one morning, listening to a radio show hosted by Ken and Daria Dolan, a husband and wife team of financial advisors.

“I’m driving to work and I hear my husband’s voice on the radio asking ‘Where do you think I should bring my family? Aurora, Colorado or Raleigh, North Carolina?’” she said. “I’m like ‘What in the world! He is serious!’ They answered his question and said Raleigh was an up-and-coming place and might be nice to try.”

So, in 1995, with no jobs lined up, Margie and Martin moved to Raleigh. Before long, Martin started a real estate business and Margie began her career in the nursing education field. Both of their children are now grown and North Carolina is home.

Is there a colleague at Duke who has an intriguing job or goes above and beyond to make a difference? Nominate that person for Blue Devil of the Week.