AUDIO: Practicing on mannequins

By Jannea Thomason

The SimMan lies on the intensive care bed waiting for the computer to bring him to life to teach the nursing students. (Photo by Jannea Thomason)

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[Music begins.]

MICHAEL THOMASON: In the lower level of the Science Hall, there are mannequins laid up in hospital beds waiting for nursing students to come fix whatever their tag says is wrong. Learning with the mannequins is a unique experience. [Music fade out.] Jannea Thomason takes us behind the curtain.

[Hi, I’m Caitlin. I’m going to be your student nurse today.]

JANNEA THOMASON: First year nursing students practice the skills they’ve learned in class on people even before clinical. The “people” are teaching mannequins that simulate every aspect of a human except the living part. Pamela Anderson, the simulation lab instructor, explains what they expect from students.

PAMELA ANDERSON: We tell them to suspend their disbelief. That they have to come in and approach it as if they’re gonna really see this person in the clinic situation. That it’s a real person. It’s very hard because they are mannequins.

THOMASON: Students have to talk to the mannequins as if they were real and treat them like they were. Changing bandages, inserting male catheters, and wiping up fake body fluids — these are only a few of the activities students do. Senior Gabby Helle has worked with the mannequins a year-and-a-half and knows the process.

GABBY HELLE: Yes, they’re fake. But they’re simulating a real patient.

THOMASON: The department has three full-bodied, adult teaching mannequins: a black man, a red-headed woman, and a white boy/girl. The department also has one SimMan, a computer-controlled, interactive mannequin. He breathes, talks, has a heartbeat on the monitor and can have a serious medical emergency at any moment.

[Breath sounds, coughing, mannequin talking.]

HELLE: We went over to the practice lab, and Pamela just had us looking at ABGs and looking at other just small stuff on the patient. [Mannequin sound out] And then all of a sudden she’s, like, “Alright, the patient’s coding.” So. Then. We all just kind of froze, like, “ah, ‘kay what do we do?”

THOMASON: A moment later they snapped into action and went through the steps they had done many times before. SimMan was stabilized. The students use the basic skills they practice separately on the other mannequins all together during the simulation.

HELLE: And it’s Pamela behind the window talking to us. So sometimes she can hear us through the window. And so she’ll respond back, like, with some moaning and groaning or, like, just weird noises that you are going to hear on our patient. Just it’s weird to hear it out of a mannequin. So we’re [we are], like, assessing something and all of a sudden he was like, “agh,” or like making vomiting noises.

THOMASON: The students are ready for anything to go wrong at any moment.

HELLE: The IVs become disconnected from them, so then they start, like, leaking water everywhere [from] inside them.

THOMASON: All the simulations have been successful in Helle’s opinion because they have forced the students to work together, take responsibility, and immediate action. When something does go wrong, they are going to take care of it before it gets worse. Getting all the details right and ending with a healthy or stable mannequin is better than the good grade.

HELLE: So that way it gives me the confidence and them [the patient] the confidence.

THOMASON: Students leave the lab ready to use the skills they learned–and with funny stories to boot. [Music in.] This is Jannea Thomason reporting for the Huntingtonian.

[Fade out music.]

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