The dummies that train us

By Matthew Le Blanc

Patients made of plastic are donating their bodies to science so you don’t have to. Nursing students at Mohawk’s IAHS building are learning from top-of-the-line mannequins, which simulate real life scenarios they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to experience.

The high fidelity mannequins, or SimMan patient simulators, simulate a wide range of symptoms and situations students can take advantage of before graduating. You can feel their pulse, watch their breathing as the chest moves up and down, and even communicate with it while practicing. An operator just a few feet away controls the mannequins to give the students a realistic experience.

Associate Dean and Faculty of Health Sciences, Donna Rawlin, says students love the technology and the ability to get hands-on experience.

“When we first started using [the mannequins] we created a shock scenario for our BScN students and we ran the students through the scenario using even the lower fidelity mannequins,” says Rawlin. “Then we brought them together in a debriefing session to talk about what they learned, what they assessed…to help link the path of physiology they learned about. The students just loved the opportunity to actually apply it and help put the connections together after the fact.”

Tanya Linington, a Nurse Technologist at the IAHS, says even though the mannequins take a bit of getting used to, students are often excited to get in there to treat the life-size figurines.

“Simulation is a really fun way to learn skills…it’s a safe way to make mistakes,” Linington says. “The biggest draw is students can learn, make mistakes and come back and do it right the next time and feel so much better about themselves…If students do make mistakes they tend not to do them again because…they remember what they did wrong in that certain simulation. It really does increase their learning a lot.”

McMaster originally purchased the mannequins back in 2005, but it has taken them a few years to actually work them into the curriculum.

“When the mannequins were first here they all looked beautiful but nobody was using them, everyone was afraid of them,” says Rawlin. “My role was really to embrace and get people trying them…I sort of did a train-the-trainer model. I learned how to use them and then I showed other faculty and we started getting more and more students involved.”

Despite the high fidelity mannequins costing $70,000 each, Rawlin says they’re worth every penny and hopes to expand within the Institute for Applied Health Sciences.

“I would love for this whole facility to be a mini hospital where we have each room that has a centre,” Rawlin says. “For example, we’re working on an obstetrical room where we go from birthing, to neonatal care, to postpartum care.”

Her vision for the future is to create a diverse facility where a spectrum of scenarios can be carried out for the benefit of students.

These dummies may be foolish enough to let the doctors of tomorrow practice on them, but think of the lives they’re saving and people they’re keeping healthy. Perhaps next time you see one, instead of being creeped out, you can shake their hand for their contributions to health sciences.

Reporter – Matthew Le Blanc
Script – Dave Watson
Camera Operator – Dave Watson
Audio/Video Editing – Matthew Le Blanc
Moral Support – Jordan Small

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