If you walk by the Department of Physician Assistant Studies lab in the College of Allied Health Sciences, you may notice someone lying alone on a hospital bed. Don’t be alarmed, our students haven’t abandoned an ailing patient, that’s just the new patient simulator waiting for the next round of students to practice medical procedures and diagnoses skills with him.
This newest simulation tool effectively prepares PA students for their field by allowing them to act out patient scenarios in a controlled environment. The Laerdal SimMan Essentials patient simulator, which has been named “Sammy” by the the PA department, can present several different types of symptoms including dilated pupils, increased heart rate, strange lung sounds, and many other diagnosable issues. With pulse points in five different locations, eyes that blink, and several other life-like features, “Sammy” is as “real” as a patient can be without actually being alive.
“Simulation is a wonderful way for students to practice in a virtual environment where mistakes can be made and learned from without affecting real patients,” said Dr. Alan Gindoff, chair of the Department.
Once a faculty member has used the wireless, touch-screen monitor to give the simulator a certain ailment, PA students then actually perform a physical examination, diagnose the problem and carry-out a treatment plan. With this method of learning, PA students can learn skills hands-on such as how to intubate, treat a pneumothorax (collapsed lung), perform an intraosseous infusion into the bone marrow of the simulator’s knee and chest, and administer drugs intravenously.
The patient simulator monitor tracks the heart rate, oxygen stats and blood pressure of the SimMan, similar to that of a hospital monitor. With this advanced technology, PA students are able to actually carry out diagnoses and treatments with a “patient” that reacts to their courses of action versus simply planning and discussing them . Also with the monitor, faculty is able to change and customize the SimMan’s condition at the touch of a button during the treatment, such as increasing his heart-rate, decreasing his oxygen levels or distending his abdomen.
With interchangeable and customizable parts, the SimMan can allow for several different types of scenarios that help prepare PA students for obstacles in the medical field, whether that is a swollen tongue making intubation difficult or a sudden need for CPR.
“Through simulation, student can apply medical management in near real-life scenarios so they may develop complex skill sets before they actually perform them on human beings,” said Gindoff, “This is unlike a multiple choice test where the answers are in front of you, waiting to be chosen from a list. This is like real-life where you have to use your knowledge to diagnose a variety of symptoms and what those symptoms may mean when presented all together.”
Through patient simulators, the Department of Physician Assistant studies is effectively preparing students for the medical field. “Sammy” may be just a patient simulator, but through his life-like symptoms and various diagnoses, he is training future PAs for real life patients.