Patient Simulators Gaining Popularity Among Teachers and Students

Today’s complex health care environment demands that nurses are able to make quick assessments and clinical decisions. More and more nursing schools are using high tech mannequins which offer an extraordinary tool for nursing education. The Human Patient Simulator is capable of realistically exhibiting the symptoms of medical crises such as: respiratory arrest, heart attacks, tachycardia, anaphylactic reactions, asthma, chronic heat failure, gastrointestinal bleeding and many more. Often referred to as “SimMan”, this patient simulator is so advanced, it’s actually easy to operate. Other simulators include “SimBaby” and “PediaSim”, and SimMan can also be turned into a woman and be pregnant. Sim-Man can have multiple computerized symptoms and diagnoses, and will respond to treatment. Different protocols will yield different outcomes and help nursing students learn proper techniques.

The pediatric human patient simulator, PediaSim is approximately the size of a 7-year-old child weighing 20 kilograms. PediaSim is especially helpful since only about 10 percent of calls to EMS providers involve a child. Nurses and physicians also have limited exposure to certain pediatric emergency situations. Infrequently used skills can be practiced and reinforced in HPS education to achieve a higher level of proficiency. As a result, students can learn and practice without risk of harming a real child. They can practice a procedure over and over until it’s perfect.

The simulator affords residents an incredibly realistic training experience. But experts said that what really makes the patient simulator ideal for training is that it instantly reacts physiologically to the treatment it’s given even if it’s the wrong one. The simulator system registers the dosage and drug type, and the patient simulator reacts as a human patient would. Key features include pupils that automatically dilate and constrict, a drug-recognition system with bar code reader, realistic respiratory gas exchange and anesthesia delivery capabilities, and variable lung compliance and airways resistance. Another advantage of the patient simulator is that students can run through a situation repeatedly and that patient simulators allow students the opportunity to practice things they might not encounter except in rare circumstances, such as emergency situations.

A computer system allows the instructor to operate the HPS while working up close with students. Instructors can easily increase or decrease event severity and duration, overlay scenarios or interrupt the event. The scenarios allow students to respond as they would in the course of daily care. For instance, they can request a chest film or CT, or draw lab for blood gases, and will receive realistic values.

Caregivers can assess vital functions such as blood pressure, temperature, differential pulses, heart sounds, including murmurs and gallops, breath sounds including wheezing, and respiratory efforts. Caregivers can also perform procedures in a realistic fashion such as intubation with difficult airway and laryngospasm, IV lines, central line monitoring, EKG interpretation and defibrillation. The simulator can recognize appropriate CPR technique and what drugs are being administered at what amount and will react accordingly. The simulator will start to breathe once his airway receives adequate oxygenation and ventilation.

Since patients do not have as extended stays in they did years ago, its not as easy to observe patient progress over a period of time. In addition, simulation helps new nursing students get over their initial fear of encountering their first real patient. While many students claim they feel funny talking to a mannequin at first, they also recognize the benefits in using the patient simulator. Instructors also appreciate the fact that they standardize scenarios for the students and observe what each student does in a given situation and then follow up with comments and advice.

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