by Cali Carpenter, class of 2017
On a scale of 1–10, how panicked would you be working with a mannequin that could talk back? Not everyone would be able to handle this, but our nursing students do it on a regular basis. The SimMan is a high-tech mannequin that helps our students implement and observe multiple processes and try to anticipate different things that could occur with a patient such as losing consciousness, blood pressure rising or dropping, pulse rates, or even seizures. SimMan is operated through a computer system which has a microphone that allows you to talk to it and someone in the control room is able to talk back. We talked to some of our nursing students who gave us some insight on their experiences working with SimMan.
1. Be prepared for anything
As you can imagine, things don’t always go according to plan when working with a computer operated mannequin. “One day we were working and the SimMan was supposed to be having a seizure but then it stopped, so we all thought our patient had died. We quickly started CPR but then our professor came in and said ‘Wait! It’s supposed to be having a seizure!’” said Brie Roberts (’17). Just like with real patients, working with the SimMan can be unpredictable. Events like these have not only challenge our nursing students, but also teach them to stay on their toes.
2. Stress can be a good thing
Dealing with the SimMan can be intense, but “it’s stressful in a good way,” Maddie Peppley (’17) said. “It is helpful to practice on a mannequin because it’s a real life scenario but no one will be harmed if something goes wrong." The SimMan has made Maddie a better nurse not only in those high-intensity situations, but also in less exciting ways like learning how to take blood pressure and listen to lung sounds. On a real patient, these things can be difficult to identify, so it has been helpful for her to be able to easily hear them on the SimMan so she is better prepared when working with real patients.
3. You’re in a safe environment
Every simulation is recorded, so the students always review them afterwards to see what they did well but also what they could improve upon. When Mike Wherry (’17) watched his video, all he could think was, “Oh my gosh! I thought I was moving and thinking a lot faster than that!” When you’re in the situation, everything seems to be happening so quickly because you’re overwhelmed and everything is so high intensity, but “when you’re watching it in real time you see that there is sometimes a lot of space in between what’s happening and how you act on that; it’s almost like you’re watching yourself in slow motion,” Mike said. It is difficult to relax and be at ease during a simulation, but there is satisfaction in knowing “it is a safe environment to learn things.”
4. It’s okay to not know all the answers
Working with the SimMan is a learning experience, and just like anything else you won’t always be perfect or know all the answers. One of the biggest things Roxanne Johnsen (’17) has learned is that “It’s okay to make a mistake as long as you learn from it.” Practicing during a simulation is a very valuable learning tool because unlike a real patient, the SimMan’s life is not at risk if something goes wrong. “It is also okay to ask and work as a team if you don’t know all the answers. Simulators bring out a lot of teamwork and show us that it’s okay to check with each other because there may be some things I don’t know that someone else does,” Roxanne said. Learning to communicate in a high intensity situation and feel comfortable enough to ask for help are just a couple ways that the SimMan is not only making our students better nurses but also better communicators.
5. There’s nothing else like it
For our nursing students, the SimMan is their first experience dealing with emergency situations. “There is nothing like being thrown into a situation by yourself that you have only read about to make you learn it,” Kara Denhoed (’17) said. The instructors describe the scenario that the students will be walking into, and then the students have to jump in and react from there. This is a very unique opportunity because if there was an intense situation in a hospital, the students would typically be asked to step aside and would just have to learn by watching. With the SimMan, they are able to experience these high-intensity scenarios and not only watch but figure out how to save their patient.