By Ashley Bowden
Students in various health profession programs receive the full hands-on experience of handling the closest thing to actual patients: mannequins with high-tech simulation capabilities. They can encounter numerous complications and situations that they would encounter in a real hospital. The Interprofessional Simulation Center in Pell Hall houses eight of these mannequins, each capable of a different level and category of health practice. “The eight mannequins each have a specific purpose and they’re each unique in their own way,” Stacy Gropack, dean for the school of health professions and nursing, said.
Students are monitored through one-way glass as they practice tending to their “patients,” by inserting IVs or administering proper dosages of medicine. The mannequins are controlled by technicians or faculty behind the one- way glass. Students are even able to communicate with their “patient” by conversing with the technician talking through the mannequin from the control room. “You can do pretty much any kind of health assessment” on the mannequins, Simulation Center manager Brian Haughney said. “They can cough, they can breathe and do all kinds of things you need them to do.” Just a few of these features include intubation (inserting a tube into the body), cannulation (a technique to place a thin tube inside a vein), and checking blood pressure.
This is not even the extent of the reach of this technology. The center houses a maternity ward housing a mannequin that is actually programed to give birth. The baby, unsurprisingly enough, is a fully functional mannequin as well. With everything being automated, “We can simulate a lot of different complications, too,”
Haughney mentioned. The patient is programmable for mostly any procedure ranging from breach birth to cesarean section, and the baby not only moves and cries but has the capability to turn blue around his lips, fitting specific scenarios. Students are able to interact with the patient in every way they would with a real one.
The center is home to the “most advanced mannequin on the market now,” according to Haughney, and it is nicknamed “Sim-Man.” This machine possesses capabilities as detailed as pupillary dilation. It can breathe and bleed, just like a real person. The technology inside nician in the control room to know what medicine and dosage has been administered, as well as for “Sim-Man” itself to exhibit an adverse reaction that students will have to handle realistically.
“The Interprofessional Simulation Center has been open and in use for about the last sixth months,” Gropack said. After a lengthy development process of approximately two years, the center accurately replicates a realistic hospital. One year was spent solely to redevelop and repurpose the space that the center now occupies. Previously, it was the old nursing skills lab.
Use of the center is not limited exclusively to nursing students. “Students from all of our programs: nutrition, social work, healthcare public administration, nursing, healthcare information management, health sciences, medical imaging all use this center to learn how to work as an interprofessional team,” Gropack said. Case studies are formulated using the mannequins, and students are challenged to put their skills to the test working with one another. Gropack stressed how essential this skill is to being successful in the workforce for healthcare professionals. “Having this simulation center allows our students to be one step above.” The skills and learning opportunities students encounter in the center are all within a safe environment, enabling them to take what they’ve learned out into the real world. The experience with the mannequins should make real cases easier to handle.