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SimMan helps teach Decker students

By : By Katie Ellis

Though he resembles a crash dummy and goes by the name SimMan, he has a lot more going on inside him and he’s going to be instrumental in preparing Decker School of Nursing students to care for patients.

SimMan is one of two human patient simulators (HPS) now housed at the Decker School’s Innovative Practice Center, created earlier this year with a $500,000 gift from the Dr. G. Clifford and Florence B. Decker Foundation. He breathes, he talks, he bleeds — in fact, he does whatever he’s told to do.

“We can create computer driven events and scenarios that require students to respond as directed by classroom lectures and activities,” said Susan Russell, coordinator of the school’s learning labs. “If they complete the scenario correctly the HPS will respond by getting better. If not, complications may occur.

“He has a bleeding as well as a wound component, you can listen to heart and lung sounds and you can see his chest expand. He can experience breathing difficulty and his tongue can swell to obstruct his airway as well,” she said.

Russell said SimMan can also be any age, sex or race and he is currently programmed to speak English, but phrases in other languages can be recorded. Not being able to communicate with your patient can be very stressful, Russell explained, so the recording function provides an opportunity for students to experience this situation and use critical thinking skills to arrive at a solution without any patient harm.

SimMan will be used for all levels of students at the school, with Decker faculty integrating him into their curriculum. Faculty training began over the summer and will continue this fall. “We can prepare our students to know what it’s like to have a patient come into the ER and be thrown into an emergency situation,” said Russell.

In addition to the two SimMan simulators, the lab now has a number of other tools at its disposal — all using technology at a higher level than was previously available — ranging from virtual intravenous (IV) simulators to equipment for ear and eye assessment care to a nursing baby manikin. A child manikin is also on order so students can become familiar with pediatric care for children up to age 6. The baby and child manikins have computer programs as well.

Russell said new otoscopes for checking auditory canals and ear drums and ophthalmoscopes for viewing the eyes allow much greater views than students have had in the past. “For example, we now have equipment to look inside the ear and the view will be shown on a screen instead of having the student look inside the ear after the instructor has,” said Russell. “In addition, the new panoptic lenses for eye assessment are much easier to use, increasing the success rate as students learn new tasks.” One skill students will learn in the practice center is how to insert an IV line on a patient. “SimMan and the Virtual IV program are able to simulate actual problems that may occur, such as “rolling veins,” to enhance their previous preparation,” said Russell. Decker students and youngsters from the community in grades six through eight also worked this summer with SimMan and Virtual IV. “The youngsters spent an hour with two recent graduates and were introduced to SimMan and the IV simulator,” said Russell. “We also have new pregnancy models, simulating different fetal developmental stages that they were able to experience. The models are palpable and simulate the actual weight of fetuses at the ages of 3, 7 and 9 months. They were able to touch and carry the models around.”

The next step for Russell is to orient the faculty to all of the new equipment. “When faculty return for the semester, they’ll be doing some hands-on training and get an introduction to SimMan and what he can do,” she said. “For example, we’ll be using him to teach blood pressures in our basic assessment course. We can program the blood pressures into SimMan and have the students take the blood pressure. The scenario will continue and the blood pressure will change, providing a simulation more like what the students will actually experience in a clinical setting. Once they achieve competency at one level, we can change the quality of the blood pressure and add a greater level of difficulty. The same with the breath, bowel and heart sounds.

“We also have a sound trainer that allows up to eight students to hear sounds selected by faculty. Students place a stethoscope on small vinyl drums. The sounds are able to be heard without any other interference,” said Russell. “With SimMan, there would be other sounds, like a heart beating. With this sound trainer, they can go from the basic level of auscultation, then move on to using SimMan where they need to be able to listen for the sounds with all the other sounds interfering.”

The Innovative Practice Center will provide students with a higher level of preparation before they go to clinical sites in the community. “This is about improving skills, increasing confidence and adding experiences in a controlled environment,” said Russell. “Our students will be able to develop and improve critical thinking skills before they enter clinical sites and that’s why excitement prevails here.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08