College buys `patient' to be practiced on

$160,000 lifelike dummy simulates breathing, other human vital signs

Imitates hundreds of scenarios

300 students will use simulator each semester at community school

Anne Arundel

January 24, 2003|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

A dozen paramedic students at Anne Arundel Community College crowd around the hospital bed, feeling all over the patient's body for a pulse.

Some of them press fingers against his throat and his feet, while others listen for a heartbeat through stethoscopes. A few students feel around his pelvis for the harder-to-locate femoral pulse point.

"Oh, I found it!" exclaims Dawn Lusby, 20. "You feel the ridge?" she asks her classmates, indicating the patient's protruding pelvic bone. "It's right above the ridge."

This patient is not a real person - but then again, a real person probably would not be willing to be poked and prodded by a group of students.

His name is Stan D. Ardman (string the words together), a $160,000, technologically advanced human patient simulator in the form of a lifelike dummy, the college's latest major acquisition.

Stan's chest rises and falls as he breathes in oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide. Shade his eyes from light, and his brown pupils will dilate. Pinch his nose and cover his mouth, and he will suffocate. He is hooked up to a computer that tracks his "vital signs" in the same way a hospital monitor would track those of a real person.

For decades, the military has used the human patient simulator manufactured by Sarasota, Fla.-based METI Inc. to train its medical response personnel. Two of the four Stans in Maryland are at the Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick and the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda. The third is at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

In recent years, the patient simulator has become more popular among community colleges - the training ground for thousands of paramedics, nurses and other medical workers - that can afford its hefty price. About 50 community colleges in the country have bought such simulators, said Tess Mitchell, METI's marketing director.

Officials at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold say they decided to spend the money for Stan - one of their most expensive purchases - because it will be useful to several departments.

Stan will become a part of the curriculum for about 300 students each semester who are training to become paramedics, nurses, physician assistants and physical therapist assistants, officials said. In the past, students have practiced procedures using a variety of mannequins, but none as comprehensive as Stan.

"It wasn't really true to life," said Sally Gresty, chairwoman of the Emergency Medical Technician Department at the college. "They couldn't give any medications and watch the effect."

Now students will have the advantage of practicing on something that is closer to real life, without the consequences.

Stan can be programmed to simulate hundreds of situations, such as a 26-year-old man who has been submerged in fresh water for seven minutes or a 50-year-old with gastrointestinal bleeding.

In drills, students must monitor his vital signs and other indicators and decide on a course of action, such as injecting a drug, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation or piercing his throat to create a surgical airway.

If one of his eyes stays shut, it is not because he is broken. It is likely that the instructor, using a laptop computer to control Stan from the next room, has programmed him to react like someone with a head injury.

If Stan goes into cardiac arrest, he can be defibrillated at realistic voltage levels. "With a regular mannequin, it would fry it," said Gresty.

Students who use Stan can get valuable experience compared with their peers, who never encounter certain life-and-death situations until they are faced with real patients.

"We can throw things at them, we can make changes in the scenario," Gresty said. "If they make a mistake, this patient dies. But we can make him come to life again."

The college will hold an open house Thursday to publicize Stan's arrival.

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