Some would say that the manikins in the nursing lab are creepy. These sim(ulation) people not only look real, they are programmed to act human, too. They sweat, cry, speak, blink, show pupil changes, make breathing and body sounds, and display complexion changes. One even has a compressor in its leg that can pump out “blood” to simulate a patient experiencing massive blood loss. Another can simulate birthing complications. Lives are saved—or lost— during these critical training moments.
The sim people are a part of an integrated digital system (SimView™). This state-of-the-art technology allows the instructor to create a medical simulation and see how the students respond in real-time. Cameras and microphones are set up in the lab to record the students every move. Kelly Mitchell, the PWSC Professor of Nursing and Health Sciences says, “When students have done their simulation, they have done good things and bad things, but what happens in simulation stays in simulation. We want the nursing students to make those mistakes here, so we can go back while we are debriefing and correct them.”
Kelly has the ability play back the audio and video on a high-definition TV, use the sim vitals monitor, and refer to recorded radio identification tags to see what drugs the students chose to administer. “When we go back this system has all of the events lined up… So we could say for example, you gave this blood pressure medicine, but you can see here that you never checked to see who the patient was. You gave this blood pressure medicine and you didn’t look at the monitor to see that the patient’s blood pressure was already low. We couldn’t do that before because we didn’t have all of the pieces of the simulation together and that’s what this does.”
When the students are practicing CPR on the sim man, Kelly can tell how effective they are by the feedback being displayed on his computer monitor. He’ll know if they aren’t pushing hard enough or fast enough. He can also simulate a difficult airway. The sim man’s tongue will swell so you can’t see the airway. You can run all sorts of simulations from hypoglycemia to asthma. In an asthma situation, the sim’s lips will turn blue, and he will make audible sounds that indicate he is struggling to breathe. The students can practice their interventions and if they respond correctly the sim returns to normal.
The sim people seem creepy because of how human like they are, and that’s what makes them such effective tools for learning. The realism of each situation elicit authentic responses from students. Students practice their skills and receive real-time feedback from their patient and environment like they would in the real world. The biggest difference is that in the nursing lab mistakes are encouraged so learning can happen.