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LESSONS FROM A DUMMY: PATIENT SIMULATOR MIMICS REAL LIFE HOSPITAL SCENARIOS

Janet Wardlaw-Colby, of Sutter Coast Hospital, slips an oxygen mask over Sim Man's mouth. (Wescom News Service/Bryant Anderson).
Janet Wardlaw-Colby, of Sutter Coast Hospital, slips an oxygen mask over Sim Man's mouth. (Wescom News Service/Bryant Anderson).

By Michelle Ma

Wescom News Service

CRESCENT CITY – Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City recently admitted a new patient.

He's tall, weighs about 70 pounds and wears a teal gown. And he won't be discharged any time soon.

The life-like mannequin is a new, high-tech training tool for hospital staff and area nursing students.

Now, nursing students at College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University can practice care and medical procedures on the mannequin, known as "Sim Man."

He functions as a specialized robot and can simulate a variety of real-life health situations, such as an asthma attack or cardiac arrest.

Sutter Coast purchased the simulator for close to $58,000 and donated it to the College of the Redwoods about three months ago. He has his own hospital room and will stay at Sutter Coast for nursing students doing clinical rotations.

Nurses who work at the hospital will also practice skills on Sim Man at least twice a year.

Nursing students practiced procedures, such as inserting an IV, on the mannequin at the end of spring semester last May. But starting this year, students will benefit from weekly training sessions with the simulator, said Melody Pope, assistant professor of nursing at CR.

"They find it a really rewarding experience because it's the one type of situation where they can make a mistake and learn from it, and not have any patient harm," Pope said.

She said nursing students here are on the "cutting edge" by having access to this technology, especially because there is limited space in this region for students to do their clinical training. This issue is problematic at many rural hospitals and nursing schools, said Pope and Janet Wardlaw-Colby, director of perinatal services and hospital education at Sutter Coast.

High-tech simulators have become more common at nursing schools in the last five years, but it's rare for a community college to have access to these specialized learning tools, Pope said. More basic mannequins have been used in the past, but none with the human-like qualities of Sim Man.

The mannequin can breathe and speak, and he has the outer physical qualities of a person. A computer, run by trained instructors, determines his heart rate, breathing patterns, bowel sounds and speech.

Students can insert IVs and catheters, take blood pressure, give injections and dress wounds, among other procedures.

Hospital nurses can practice responding to more severe situations, such as heart attacks or collapsed lungs, Wardlaw-Colby said.

Three professionals, including Pope and Wardlaw-Colby, went through training sessions to learn how to operate the simulator. The Sim Man can be programmed to get progressively more "sick" during a session with nurses or students, or instructors can opt to bring up unforeseen medical complications.

For example, hospital nurses were practicing CPR on the Sim Man this summer during a skills training session when he "unexpectedly" went into cardiac arrest. The mannequin's life-like response – and designated hospital bed and room – made it seem as though nurses were caring for an actual patient, Wardlaw-Colby said.

"Once you get over you are talking to dummy, they actually interact with him and treat him like he's a real patient," she said. "If you were outside the door, you would you think you're interacting with patient."

Alice Seiber, a second-year CR nursing student, heard about Sim Man and couldn't wait to practice with it. During a session with the mannequin, his vital signs changed unexpectedly, which taught Seiber, of Blue Lake, to respond quickly, she said.

"They turned him on, and he almost became living to me," she said.

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