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Students experience life-like classroom instruction

The patient is a computerized manikin, but it is easy to forget “Pat” is not alive. Medical students and established physicians now have the opportunity to stage illnesses, wounds and other medical scenarios to study and practice the best healing solutions along with consideration for the patient’s comfort. They talk to the patient and adjust treatment in response to his reply.

This teaching tool has been made available through a grant to the Northland Community and Technical College of East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls. The traveling lab brings the classroom to the students and physicians throughout the northwest region, including hospitals and clinics in Fosston, Crookston, Roseau, Thief River Falls and Baudette among others, as well as college campuses.

Eight students completing their clinicals for RN certification at Essentia Health Fosston spent a day working with “Pat” in Fosston. He was programmed to be a three-day, post operative patient. Students monitored pulse, blood pressure, respirations, heart and lung sounds, bowel sounds and also changed the dressing on the incision.

“The experience was just wonderful,” said Marilyn Andresen, an RN student. “The manikin was so life like; it was like working on a real person.”

“Pat,” the life-like manikin, can be programmed to simulate many situations where actions and reactions can be monitored. Simulated applications may include recurring problems health care workers encounter on a regular basis and need to practice to become proficient; but “Pat” can also be used to simulate less frequent occurrences in which seasoned physicians may want to practice or become more familiar with treatment and possible adverse complications.

In addition to programmable vital signs, the manikin produces all the body secretions of a normal human person, including tears, blood, urine and perspiration. Simulated breathing includes the rise and fall of the chest, breath sounds, swelling airway resistance; and students practice intubation and ventilation procedures. Administering drugs can also be monitored, identifying overdose and physiological responses to the drugs. It is possible to fast forward, pause, rewind, and save and restore procedures and outcomes.

This is a valuable tool in learning about healthcare, and the first to come to the northwest region. There are two similar tools for training elsewhere in Minnesota. The possibilities for practice are endless, and Dan Sponsler, simulation operator, has been taking the unit out each week to clinics and hospitals in the area working with students. He is still researching and learning new uses for the manikin. “We are constantly learning new applications for this unique set up. What we can do with it is limited to our imaginations. It offers a completely new level of training available to health care workers and students in the region,” said Sponsler.