Team approach breathes life into teaching

Faculty and students participate in an excercise
using a simulation manikin at WSU recently.
(Photo by Tara Cunningham, WSU Today intern)

SPOKANE – Collaboration is key when it comes to the human simulation manikins WSU health science students use at the Spokane Riverpoint Campus.

WSU nursing and pharmacy have teamed up with Gonzaga, Eastern Washington University dental and dental hygiene departments, Sacred Heart Medical, and Holy Family Hospital to receive the training opportunities provided by these simulators.
“By effectively collaborating with other medical partners and utilizing this revolutionary learning tool, we have a distinct advantage,” said Suzan Kardong-Edgren, an assistant professor of nursing.
While WSU health sciences has used the simulators for the past three years, the community partnership began in 2007 when WSU received a $5,000 collaborative grant to further develop interprofessional human patient simulation (HPS).

Real-life familiarity

HPS uses life-size manikins that have pulses, a heartbeat, bowel sounds, lung sounds and even changeable eyeballs. All HPS life signs simulate different disease processes and varying vital signs, which are controlled by a technician at a computer.
“The simulators produce very real circumstances students can respond to, instead of only reading a book and listening to a lecture,” Kardong-Edgren said.
The simulators can re-create the top 10 diagnoses health care professionals treat the most. Students are able to gain the repetition and familiarity needed to respond quickly in real-life scenarios. Normally this type of experience would require many clinical settings, Kardong-Edgren said.

Maximizing resources

While simulators are helpful in many facets of the medical profession, they don’t come cheap.
In the Laerdal catalog, the company that produces the simulators, the manikins can range from $7,000 to $250,000.  However, like many new technologies, the price continues to decrease, Kardong-Edgren said. 
WSU and its partners have four simulators, all of which make breath, heart and bowel sounds. The cost was $7,000 for the most basic VitalSim to $38,000 for the more advanced SimMan.
“For first-year nursing students the cheaper ones are fine for their interests”, Kardong-Edgren said. 
They may look less realistic than the more expensive ones but they still can be used to teach a variety of skills.

Newest knowledge

This summer WSU, Gonzaga and Sacred Heart Medical each will receive the new SimMan® 3G simulator.  It is wireless and has the ability to react to drugs it receives intravenously. At about $60,000 SimMan® 3G will put WSU and its partners at the forefront of health-science teaching.  
The 3G will provide students with opportunities to experience more complicated situations.
“It would be very appropriate to lay the simulators in the middle of an emergency room as if they had collapsed and have students practice CPR on them,” Kardong-Edgren said.
While new models continue to develop, Kardong-Edgren said the benefits of WSU’s simulators and the new SimMan® 3G work perfectly for the most critical things students need to learn.
“With thes e simulators we have the opportunity to pioneer health-science interprofessional education,” she said.

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