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Sophisticated Dummies
Help Make Smart Nurses


You might call SimMan a glutton for punishment. Go ahead—give him an injection, using real IV fluids: his arm has all the anatomically correct veins, and when they get worn out, well, there are more where that patch of skin came from. Program him to have a breathing problem (he breathes on his own, quite realistically) and make his teeth clench together (technical term is trismus). They may break if you’re too rough putting in the breathing tube, but he won’t scream, complain or sue. And you’ll have a better idea how to perform an intubation next time. You can take his pulse or his blood pressure, and you can program either one to rise or fall, using SimMan’s software on your laptop computer. Want to see your nursing students try their hands at CPR or defibrillation? No sweat—just set the controls for a cardiac arrest, and he’ll oblige. You can give him a broken leg—feel the broken shinbone, right there beneath the ugly bruise!—or bring him in with his toe dangling off. He can make vomiting noises, too.
    SimMan—er, Laerdal SimMan Universal Patient Simulator, made by Medical Plastics Laboratory—is the latest and most advanced addition to the School of Nursing’s Mathias J. Brunner Instructional Technology Center. The center—which was made possible by a gift from Dr. Lillian S. Brunner Ed’45 Hon’85, and named after her late husband, Mathias J. Brunner GME’47 —opened in October. It features a wide range of manikins and high-tech lifesaving equipment.
    SimMan’s willingness to let nursing students learn the vital tricks of their trade on his remarkably lifelike but unfeeling body should make those future nurses a lot better equipped to carry out the tasks on real people. His arrival on the scene this month also gives the school the distinction of being the first in the country to integrate him into its curriculum.
    “Patient-care simulation is somewhat new,” says Jackie Roberts, the center’s project manager, “but this advance [SimMan] is really new. It’s different because it’s real-sized; it’s real-weighted; and you can actually perform real clinical work on it. So once a student performs a skill on it, their comfort goes up, which decreases errors and their anxiety level in the clinical setting. Patients are safer as a result of [students’] practicing on it, because it’s so real.”
    Teachers can change a given scenario by adjusting the program on their laptop. “That’s the important part about teaching,” Roberts says. “If you had to do the same thing all the time, the students would get used to what you’re going to say, but with this—you’ll know [whether] they know everything. It’s always making them think.”

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Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 1/2/01