Students treat ‘simulated’ patientsWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Once a week, Debbie Porkarski treats her patient, Sam Owens, who shows a nearly endless number of symptoms for diseases of all kinds and countless other medical conditions.
The relationship may be the perfect way for Porkarski to hone her nursing skills in her third semester at Owens Community College. However, Sam’s not a human; he’s a human-patient simulator — a sophisticated educational device that can safely die more deaths than a room full of felines.
The more realistic the patient, the more likely Porkarski will have experienced the gamut of potential medical situations before risking a patient’s life. In one scenario, students undergo a mock code to help them prepare for a variety of emergency situations that may arise under actual conditions. Fortunately, mistakes never lead to the demise of a flesh-and-blood patient.
”They just want you to think, you know, stop and think, ‘What would you do if this happened?’ And it really does happen with Sam,” Porkarski said.
”The nice thing is that if we do something wrong, you know, we reboot him and do it again.”
Sam, the product of Medical Education Technologies Inc. Based in Sarasota, Fla. has two younger relatives, a pediatric version and an infant simulator. Sam and the baby possess interchangeable genitalia to allow instructors to isolate gender-specific conditions. He (or she) also duplicates nearly all human biological functions for students to monitor during class sessions, including vocal interactions.
”He blinks; they have a voice box so he can talk; he has pulses,” Porkarski said. ”They can hook him up to the computer and they can control his heartbeat, and they can control if he has different heart-related issues.”
A start-up package from METI costs about $280,000, according to Barbara Miller, Owens clinical coordinator of the human-patient simulator lab. Owens purchased Sam, a male preadolescent called Coty and an infant yet to be given a name. Also available are preprogrammed modules to adapt the simulators to meet the instructors’ curricula.
Because 55 percent of the population have become cognetic learners, those who retain information through experience, she noted, develop critical thinking skills more easily. Owens is implementing the technology into all nursing courses and writing custom scenarios to supplement the 90 programs provided by METI.
”This is not just an expensive toy that Owens likes to have; it’s a way to facilitate learning better,” Miller said. ”Our goal is to produce better critical thinkers which would make better nurses.”
Miller will participate in the Human Patient Simulation Network’s International Conference, which runs from Feb. 28 to March 3. Her workshop will address how to integrate mock code scenarios into a nursing curriculum.
The technology developed through use in other fields, including the military and air- and ground-transportation training. Medical human-patient simulation emerged originally to train anesthesiologists under real-life situations through a visual learning environment.