Lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a monitor and an IV, Earl Jensen moaned, coughed and complained loudly. His breathing labored, he exhibited the signs and symptoms of pneumonia. MATC registered nursing students checked his vital signs, adjusted his intravenous line and fitted him with an oxygen tube. For many, this marked their first attempt to put classroom theory into action. And the beauty of it was that students were able to practice providing clinical care in a protected environment. They could safely make mistakes and learn from them.Dubbed "Mr. Jensen" for that class session, the patient was actually an eerily lifelike mannequin, one of the newest training devices used by nursing students at the Mequon Campus. The advanced patient simulator, called SimMan, is a product of Laederal Medical Corp. SimMan can be programmed to display a variety of ailments, symptoms and responses. It can fit the profile of patients of nearly all ages, and can be adjusted to simulate either a male or female patient.
A nursing instructor sits at a computer terminal controlling SimMan's verbal responses and physical reactions from just a few feet away. The instructor can induce cardiac arrest, an asthma attack, choking, an allergic reaction or any number of scenarios that student nurses might encounter during their clinical rotations.
Students can take his pulse and listen to his heart and lungs, just as they would assess a human patient. They may also draw simulated blood, suction secretions, check his pupils, insert a Foley catheter or a nasal gastric tube, perform CPR or carry out many other procedures expected of registered or practical nurses.
Nursing Instructor Stephanie McKennie treats SimMan for pneumonia.
With the aid of the instructor at the computer terminal, software tracks what the students are doing and displays SimMan's vital signs. Sessions often are videotaped as well. The purpose is to assess outcomes and help students improve performance.
Enhances Critical Thinking
"This way, they can gain clinical experiences not normally available to students," says Stephanie McKennie, a Mequon Campus nursing instructor who operates SimMan's controls. "The patient can deteriorate, can code. All code situations are not successful. The students learn what to do and what will happen if they don't do things correctly. It gives them training in critical thinking in situations that are less stressful than working with real patients so they can learn more easily. The scenarios are very true-to-life situations which occur with human patients."
Before we started, everyone was excited, but hesitant and nervous about working with SimMan," says nursing student Eileen Lovell. "Now we can go out and tell people how great it is. I think this is really going to help the nursing students. It will boost our confidence when we're interacting with real patients because we'll have been through so many scenarios with a lifelike mannequin. It's the closest thing we have to working with humans."
"I think this is really going to help the nursing students. It will boost our confidence when we're interacting with real patients because we'll have been through so many scenarios with a lifelike mannequin. It's the closest thing we have to working with humans."
Elise Kmichik, another nursing student, says the simulation exercises are especially helpful because first-semester students can work alongside third-semester students and with medical equipment they haven't yet covered in class.
Nursing student Eileen Lovell and Nursing Instructor Karen Chamberlain check SimMan's vital signs.
Lovell says working with the simulator gives students the opportunity to practice skills they may never even use during the clinical portion of training. "We may never see someone with pneumonia during our clinicals. It all depends on chance. So this is a very valuable opportunity to practice."
The nursing program has recently acquired wireless patient simulators at the Downtown Milwaukee, Mequon and Oak Creek campuses. Respiratory therapy students already train with the aid of a "human patient simulator."
Currently, during sessions, SimMan's operator sits behind a curtain. Soon planned permanent labs will include soundproof booths with two-way mirror to allow instructors to watch the proceedings discreetly. Nursing Instructor Karen Chamberlain often works side-by-side with students, observing them closely. "Sometimes they make mistakes," she says. "But what better setting to do it in?"
For more information on MATC's registered nursing program, see: