It’s alive –ÿsort of

Kim Thompson

Nursing majors get to practice their skills on SimMan, an artificial patient

The College of Nursing uses a dummy similar to the one above to practice working with a patient.

Credit: Andrew popik

He complains, coughs, groans and — urinates. But his features can be turned on and off at will.

“SimMan,” the brand name of this artificial patient, arrived at the College of Nursing this semester. He’ll replace the regular mannequins the college uses to instruct nursing students once the faculty is trained to operate him.

Besides coughing and groaning, he can make vomiting noises and multiple other sounds.

“You can make him say anything,” said Emily McClung, an instructor of the course that will use him. “You can record voices. If I want it to say, ‘Oh, I feel terrible,’ I would hit the record button and say, ‘Oh, I feel terrible.’ His mouth doesn’t actually move, but he talks.”

Some of SimMan’s other features include a pulse, a reading for his temperature and the rise and fall of his chest when he breathes. He also has bodily fluids.

When students insert an IV into SimMan, he can produce a red solution, McClung said. She added when students catheterize it, they can get back yellow fluids.

The artificial patient gives students a chance to get hands-on experience and make mistakes without harming a real patient, McClung said.

“Anybody can copy down out of a book how to tie a tie,” she said. “SimMan allows us to make it a live case study. Instead of saying, this is what I would do, it gives them the opportunity to do it.”

As an example, McClung said she might tell a student, “Your patient came in with shortness of breath and complains of chest pain. You need to go in and assess him.”

She’d expect students to listen to SimMan’s lung sounds and ask him questions, she said. SimMan can then give responses, which she’d be controlling by remote. She can also control his reaction to students’ assessments.

“I can change, with a remote control, what the patient is going to do,” McClung said. “I can make him get better or make him get worse.”

Making him get worse could mean an increase or decrease in heart rate or temperature or increased shortness of breath, as just a few examples. McClung said she can even make him die.

But SimMan, and all his features, didn’t come cheap. Laerdal, the company that makes SimMan, lists his price at more than $27,000.

McClung said getting SimMan puts Kent State’s College of Nursing ahead of the competition.

“I think there’s only a handful of nursing schools across the country that are using him,” McClung said. “About three or four years ago, medical schools started using them.”

The Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown recently received its own artificial patient. The college plans to create a mock emergency room to simulate traumas using it, said Holly Gerzina, director of the Center for Studies of Clinical Performance. It also has an infant patient simulator on the way, she said.

Other simulated patients, besides adult men and infants, exist as well. Laerdal makes a female simulated patient called “Resusci Anne,” and Medical Education Technologies Inc., the company that makes NEOUCOM’s model, has a child simulator called “PediaSim.”

Contact medicine reporter Kim Thompson at [email protected].