Life-like manikin helps clinic training program

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
Somewhere deep in the bowels of the clinic at Robins, a patient is in trouble.

Lying on a bed in a room that is about the size of a walk-in closet, he is breathing laboriously. "I feel like I could die," he moans.

His vital signs, shown on a computer monitor, are badly skewed. He is in the middle of a serious heart attack.

"He's not really doing too well right now," says his attendant, Joe Huse, who could hardly seem more nonchalant about his patient's predicament.

That's because his patient is not a person but a big hunk of molded plastic and high-tech gadgets, better known as SimMan.

The lifelike training manikin has been at the clinic for about a year now, but wasn't getting used much until Maj. Phaedra Christensen became the clinic's chief of education and training in July.

Huse is a representative of SimMan's maker, Laerdal Medical. He said the manikin can simulate just about any patient condition, including battle injuries. An air compressor pumps bags in the manikin's chest that act as lungs, and it has an anatomically correct upper airway system.

About its only short coming from a live patient is that it doesn't have a physical body temperature, Huse said, but it does produce a simulated electronic temperature. It can be programmed to show any vital sign for any condition trainers may want to simulate to test the skills of medical personnel.

The list price is approximately $35,000, and Huse said there are about 7,000 SimMan's of that model in use around the world. The company has a newer model that is almost double the price but comes with the improvement of being self contained.

The new model operates on an internal battery and air compressor, but the model used at Robins must be hooked to an external power source and air compressor.

That hasn't stopped it from being used in field exercises. Christensen said that with a generator for power, SimMan was used in training at Warrior Air Base. The manikin simulated battle injuries giving important experience to those training for deployment.

"You can't put a price on it," Christensen said when asked about the value of SimMan to training. "If you consider that we have a lot of nurses and technicians, we are having to do a lot as far as maintaining clinical skills and being ready for deployments. We can practice so many different scenarios, it's hard to put a value on it."

She noted that nurses doing training with real patients might never hear certain heart murmurs, but they can produce that sound with SimMan. The manikin can also simulate such rare ailments as sarin gas exposure.

With interchangeable genitalia and a wig, SimMan can also be instantly switched to SimWoman. Christensen said that allows nurses to practice catheterizations.

Although it has certain programmed voice responses, Huse said a microphone can be used to basically make it say anything.

Huse was at the clinic Dec. 10 to give SimMan a "checkup" and make sure it was working properly. He said nursing schools are the biggest users of the technology.

"I wish we had something like this when I was in nursing school," Christensen said.