The University’s School of Nursing is integrating a robotic patient into their teaching that will provide unique challenges for each student, to give them more practice before interacting with real-life patients.

The robot, called SimMan, is manufactured by a company called Laerdal, which specializes in technology for medical training. SimMan is an interactive teaching tool designed to simulate a complete spectrum of nursing procedures.

He talks – giving realistic complaints – answers questions, coughs, vomits, moans and screams. The Nursing school and the medical school have each bought one of these devices, which cost $50,000 each.

Weighing in at about 75 pounds, the SimMan is of average height and has been known to be extremely grouchy. During a recent interview with the Daily, the SimMan said, “Go Away!”

“The idea is to have the SimMan give accurate feedback to nurses, allowing them to apply the appropriate intervention in the right amount of time,” said Joyce O’Connor, Laboratory Coordinator at the nursing school.

O’Connor said the SimMan can be controlled by professors in one of two ways: via a direct connection through a cable that runs from a control laptop computer into the SimMan’s back, or with a preprogrammed remote control.

Professors plan to implement the devices by watching nursing students practice on the SimMan from an observation room. Because professors will watch through a one-sided glass mirror, students may not even know that they’re being watched while practicing.

Professors can then alter simulations mid-procedure to give nursing students new and unexpected variables.

Students can literally make assessments of SimMan’s condition from head to toe – they can hear him breath, take his pulse in several different locations and feel his chest expand.

“SimMan will be utilized as a great tool as soon as it is more heavily incorporated into the curriculum,” Nursing junior Steve Kilijancyzk said.

For now, more work needs to be done in developing the simulations, “but it will be great for totally new and fresh kids,” Kilijancyzk added.

Eventually, programmers will develop a variety of simulated scenarios from heart attacks to blocked airways.

In doing so, the programmers will be able to develop almost any scenario that a nurse is likely to encounter on a daily basis. They will enable the SimMan “to talk back to the nurse in ways that are appropriate for each scenario,” O’Connor said.

“SimMan will provide our future nursing students with a wide range of real-life medical scenarios,” O’Connor said.

In the future, professors and staff will also need to receive training to operate the simulations. Upper-level nursing students will be the primary users of SimMan, as they are the closest to actual patient contact.

The nursing school is also considering adding a SimBaby to the family – basically a scaled-down version of SimMan that allows nursing students to practice various procedures on babies.

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