Dummies That Are Not So Dumb

Dummies are not so Dumb

New mannequins offer a higher level of learning to DCTC students

If you’ve ever been to a doctor’s office, you’ve had to pass through the nurse first before seeing the ‘big guy.’ Nurses get to do the dirty work, like checking blood pressure, administering shots, or drawing blood. Even so, we rely on them to know what they’re doing. It’s not fun getting your blood drawn, especially when you see the nurses’ hand shaking and you hear those dreaded words, ‘I’m new,’ with the needle only centimeters away from your vein.

Students in a practical nursing program typically don’t get that depth of exposure until they reach their first job. In Dakota County Technical College’s Practical Nursing program, students do get that experience. As close to real-life as you can get.

This fall, the college introduced a simulation-based medical environment with four new high-tech mannequins. “It’s a virtual clinical setting that allows for true, critical thinking,” said Jay Reeves, B.S., NREMT-P, Simulation Specialist at DCTC. “There’s no net and simultaneously there’s no risk. Students can make a mistake in here.”

The four mannequins include SimMan, Noelle, Nursing Anne, and a baby. They all have some fascinating functions, but with specific capabilities.

SimMan and Noelle are both considered “high fidelity” simulators. They are as close to real-life as possible. They bleed, they speak, they breathe, and Noelle, well, she gives birth. “We actually run simulated blood through their vein system,” Jay said explaining the depth of possibilities. “Students in here can also do subcutaneous injections and surface injections.”

Watch SimMan in action

Nursing Anne and the baby mannequin are “medium fidelity” mannequins. They still seem very real, but have slightly less capabilities than SimMan and Noelle. Anne and the baby attach to a system called “Vital Sim,” which can still produce a heartbeat, bowel sounds, breathing, and a pulse.

Jay describes one instance with the senior nursing students:

“They came in the first time using these mannequins and we wanted them to do a plain head-to-toe assessment. Nothing was necessarily wrong with the patient. The assessment is just the most important thing to do because sometimes people have chronic problems but no acute problems. We ran the students through and everyone did really well.

Then one of the Practical Nursing instructors said to throw some little things at them. Well, for Nursing Anne, I put a fetal heart tone in her belly and I gave the students a short history: You’re in an urgent care center, you’re doing an initial triage assessment of the patient. She’s been complaining that she’s been throwing up the past few mornings, she feels like crud, she’s 23 years old.

They do the assessment and just think she’s nauseated, vomiting, big deal. Finally, one student does a full assessment, looks at the belly, and listens. The look on her face is one of puzzlement and she calls another person over. This is learning! She said, ‘Listen to that!’ From the belly was a steady, ‘Tok, tok, tok, tok.’ Finally she looks up at me and asks, ‘Is she pregnant?’ I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t know, have you asked her? Have you asked the single most important assessment question of a women in child bearing age?’ They said, ‘Oh my.’ Then they looked at the mannequin, not me, and asked, ‘Is there a possiblility that you’re pregnant?’ They looked at the mannequin! They completely immersed themselves in the experience at that moment. It’s the subtle things that do that. The students critically thought, from point A to point B. We reach the effective domain in here.”

Not only do they get to experience real-life scenarios, they also experience death. SimMan is capable of dying, all for the purpose of putting the students through realistic situations. “In here, they can make that critical mistake and they’re never going to forget,” said Jay.

SimLab isn’t just for the practical nursing students. Other programs are hopping on board and realizing the extent of what these mannequins can do. The Early Childhood and Youth Development program students took a trip down to the lab to witness a childbirth scenario. EMT and First Responder students get to practice emergency care with mannequins that are pinned in vehicles and have internal bleeding or broken bones.

Biomedical Equipment Technology program will be incorporating SimLab into their schedule in the future. SimMan can be set up to a ventilator that critically fails in the middle of a medical procedure. Nurses will have to react to the patient and contact Biomed students to repair the equipment.

How about the Dental Assistant program? A patient could have a heart attack in the middle of a dental procedure.

“The sky is the limit. If I wanted to give patient a tumor that you can feel through the skin, I could take a wad of tape, a small ball and put it underneath,” Jay explained. “If I have an instructor tell me she wants a patient to have a burn, I’ll moulage up a burn.”

The next step for the Practical Nursing program is to set up a true virtual hospital. It will be an acute care and critical care area with two hospital beds. In another other lab, we will be an 8-bed ward, all up and running by December.

“These LPN students will be able to make true decisions. They can’t ask someone else, we’re going to give them two or three patients that they have to take care of for three hours,” explained Jay.

The students will get a list of what they need to do for three hours with each patient, such as passing medications and giving a bath. “We can make it so that when they give that patient a bath, they roll them over to stimulate them a bit, their heart rate drops. Then the patient moans and says ‘I’m dizzy.’ Students will get the opportunity to adjust to that, beyond just learning the skill.

Down the road, the program will see even more changes. By 2014, hospitals everywhere are mandated to be on electronic charting. As the Practical Nursing program sets up a true hospital, they will keep the highest industry standards in mind.

“We’ve already put in a nurses’ station, there will be computers in there, heart monitors for patients. There will also be an electronic health record simulator so students will walk around and do all of their charting electronically on a wireless tablet or a smartphone,” said Jay. The process will be completely seamless.

It’s not true human interaction, but maybe next time you’re at the doctor’s office and ask you nurse if they’ve met SimMan. “Get a person to place value on something, to say that this is more important than that,” said Jay. “That’s what we do at DCTC.”

For more information about the DCTC Practical Nursing program, contact: