Union College installs high-tech medical simulation lab

Photo of a nursing instructor and student with the SimMan 3gHe blinks. He talks, moves and breathes. His heart beats, his pupils dilate. He sweats, cries and even bleeds. But he’s no ordinary patient. Sim-Man 3G, the latest in patient simulator technology, has become the core element of Union College’s new medical simulation laboratory for nursing, physician assistant and international rescue and relief students.

Today, many hospitals require applicants to pass a standard written test and demonstrate application of their knowledge on a high-tech mannequin similar to the 3G. By acquiring this technology, Union has the tools to even better prepare students in medical fields for the fast-paced and ever-evolving job market.

In the past, students practiced on static or low-fidelity mannequins. “Those mannequins basically just lay there,” said Theresa Stimson, associate professor of nursing. “They may make a sound, but over all, are not extremely useful.” Now, students fine-tune their skills, reaction and intuition about a patient’s symptoms in a safe environment. Patient symptoms not commonly seen during clinical rotations, such as cardiac or respiratory distress, are easy to simulate on the 3G and allow students to better understand symptoms and appropriate responses.

As the students respond to the 3G’s symptoms, a computer records each reaction. “If the student administers a drug to him, it’s recorded,” explained Stimson. “If they take his pulse, check his pupils, give him chest compressions, basically whenever he is touched, it is recorded on our computer. This allows us to debrief when the scenario is complete, and helps the students understand what they did well and what they should do differently.”

Wireless operation frees the 3G for more realistic training. “We wanted to simulate a scenario where a nurse might find a patient on the floor of their hospital room,” explained Stimson. “What would you do? What do you check? This would have been a difficult task with other mannequins, but it isn’t a problem with this one.”

The Sim-Man 3G is part of a new annex for the Division of Health Sciences. A $50,000 grant from The Abel Foundation launched the renovation of a campus storage area into a high-tech simulation laboratory. Purchasing the Sim-Man 3G was made possible through support from organizations and private individuals including leadership gifts from Adventist Health System, Marlyn (’58) and Sharon ’66 Schwartz, Bruce Bacon ’49 and Hanford Community Medical Center.

Before purchasing the Sim-Man 3G, the nursing faculty carefully considered how to best use the donors’ gifts to support both their curriculum and that of other fields of study. “We choose the Sim-Man 3G because it is full of possibilities,” said Stimson. “It is an investment that will have lasting benefits, not only for nursing majors, but for physician assistant and international rescue and relief students.”

Union received one of the first 3G simulators ever shipped to the U.S. in October 2009. In December, it officially moved into its home in the newly renovated nursing annex on the north side of the Don Love Building.

Teachers are currently working on incorporating the simulator into their course curricula. The faculty members anticipate this technology will be used in all entry level classes for nursing students in the future.