Advanced patient simulator lets students recognise any disease and perform emergency training

Utrecht 05 June 2001The University Medical Centre in Utrecht is the first hospital in The Netherlands and also one of the very few in Europe to acquire a truly innovative patient simulator. SimMan allows medical trainees to simulate no matter which disease. Physicians, students, and other people are able to learn about the different symptoms and practise a variety of therapies. Up till now, there have been sold seventy SimMan simulators to medical centres in the United States and some thirty to institutions in the United Kingdom.

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At the beginning of the new college year in September 2001, the Clinical Skills instruction laboratory, a special department that helps health care students train medical-technical skills, will start utilising the simulator, priced at nearly 70.000 euro. The device, developed by Laerdal Company, an American/Norwegian health care product designer, has been shaped like a mail manikin, measuring six feet tall. SimMan can accurately imitate a host of emergency situations, just like a flight-simulator in aviation where student pilots are supposed to bring their training efforts to a happy conclusion.

The fully automated patient simulator can be manipulated using two types of remote control to change the parameters for body temperature, heart beat, blood pressure, and breathing. Frequently occurring as well as rare diseases can be simulated true to nature. SimMan allows students and other medical trainees to practise diagnostic techniques for diseases that appear only now and then in reality, and to gain experience in performing life saving actions. If the ailment is met in reality, the trainees will recognise it immediately.

In addition to training diagnostic routines, SimMan also enables to practise emergency situations, first aid interventions, and patient transport. Students can learn how to stabilise a patient by giving a heart massage, by forcing an opening to the trachea, or through applying an infusion. With a stethoscope, medical trainees are able to listen to SimMan's breathing or gastric sounds. The device immediately responds to the students' manipulations.

The simulator can be pre-programmed using a series of scenarios in which the trainees have to solve different problems. If the student comes up with the wrong solution, the manikin may "die". If, on the contrary, the intervention turns out to be a success, SimMan promptly rewards the trainee by starting to sing the familiar song: "Always look at the bright sight of life". The acquired knowledge and skills can be evaluated afterwards by means of the device.

Dr. Vivian Eijzenbacht, head of the Clinical Skills instruction lab in Utrecht, noted that the patient simulator can never replace clinical experience but in any case, SimMan is able to give excellent educational support for upcoming doctors. More information on patient simulators is available in the VMW April 2001 article Teaching angioplasty at Tiffany's and practising pulmonary procedures with PediaSim.


Leslie Versweyveld

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