Simulators help students deal with real scenarios

Jessie Hellmann

Edith Night, 85, lies nestled in a hospital cot with a green blanket strewn across her body.

A mess of gray hair covers her head, and thickly rimmed brown oval glasses sit atop her nose. Her chest rises up and down slowly, and her harsh, raspy breathing is clearly audible. Her facial expression is stoic and her mouth is agape.

Her arm is attached to an IV with 0.9 percent sodium fluoride, with the expiration date May 2008 stamped on the plastic packet hanging limply from the hanger.

The expired medicine would be fatal, but she is a mannequin, or a simulator to be exact.

She is one of five simulators located in the clinic simulation center in the College of Nursing and Health Professions used as a tool to teach students how to take care of and interact with live patients.

Every movement and every word the simulator utters is controlled from the control room said Clinic Simulator Coordinator Judy Delp.

“I don’t feel very well,” Delp said into the microphone acting as one of the simulators.

Students in the hospital room giggled.

“Don’t giggle, it’s not funny,” Delp said. She was not being serious.

Delp said students are to treat the simulators like real people.

“Students are supposed to call the simulator by name and tell them what they’re doing,” she said.

It is the job of the students to interact with the simulators to see what health problem it is experiencing. 

Students working in the center treat the simulators like they would a human being. Every simulator has a wristband stating his or her name and date of birth, and each simulator is attached to a real IV and some have blood pressure meters.

The students ask the simulators questions, and Delp will reply through a microphone in the control room acting as the voice of the simulator.

She said she can also make the patients cough and make vomiting sounds.

The simulators are used to practice reading vital signs, inserting catheters and injecting needles.

Delp said she can change the blood pressure of a simulator with just a few clicks of a mouse.  

Each simulator lays on a hospital bed, and next to each bed is a working heart monitor.

Delp said the students learn how to take care of patients and deal with different situations through scenarios so they are prepared for real life.

Delp said a simulator was hemorrhaging after giving birth last week. The students worked together to deal with the problem. The simulator spoke Spanish, and the students had to call in a translator.

Respiratory therapy major Diana Wargel checked the condition of 54-year-old Linda Carter.

She said it sounded like there may be a disturbance in Linda’s respiratory system.

“(Simulators) give you the feeling for a hospital setting,” Wargel said. “It helps with getting over the fear of interacting with someone who is sick.”

Wargel said after one of her friends died from cystic fibrosis she was motivated to come back to school to study respiratory therapy.

“Her RT’s did amazing things for her while she was alive,” she said.

Wargel said she has a degree in mathematics education, but decided teaching was not for her and respiratory therapy is more rewarding and challenging for her. 

Respiratory therapy major Glenn Olson hovers above simulator Linda Carter and checks her breathing with a stethoscope.

“She was wheezing, but now she’s not,” he said.

“It’s really great to have these (simulators),” Olson said. “They really spent a lot of resources making this place as hospital-like as possible, which I appreciate.”