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Friday, December 08, 2006

Hi-Tech Dummies: Can Speak, Breathe, Bleed, React to Drugs & Die

Hi-Tech Dummies

New hi-tech dummies that bleed, speak and die, if given the wrong treatment, are being used by medical students.

The University of Portsmouth this week opened a £4.85m high-tech teaching facility with £135,000 computerized mannequins to train the health-related scientist of tomorrow.

The new facility - called the ExPERT Center (Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning) - features state of the art mannequins in two fully-kitted out simulation suites (operating theater and hospital ward).

The life-like mannequins - or human patient simulators - have computerized sensors that react to any treatment students apply.

“You can hear their heartbeat and the sounds from their lungs and bowel,” the ExPERT Center's director Professor Lesley Reynolds said. “They breathe oxygen, drool, secrete fluids, blink, bleed and even react to drugs injected into their bodies - they are as real as can be.”

The facility will be used by students in the biomedical sciences, psychology, radiography, social work, and professions allied to medicine and dentistry.

It will also be used by health and allied health professionals for continuing professional development, as well as emergency workers such as ambulance officers, fireman and police officers who, in the course of their duties, may need some specialized knowledge to save lives.

Professor Reynolds explained how the mannequins are treated as real patients by staff and students at the facility. The 'patients' have names, biographies and complete medical histories. This suspension of belief, she said, is heightened when students realize that the computerized patients react to interventions without instructor input.

“If the students provide the right treatment, the mannequin improves; if they provide the wrong treatment, the patient’s condition worsens,” Professor Reynolds said.

“For example, the mannequins can simulate cardiac arrest. The students can then administer a medicine such as epinephrine to try and get the heart going again. If they administer the right drug and the correct dose, the mannequin’s heart will start beating again. If they get it wrong, the patient dies.

“We are using technology to enhance learning, and in this example it’s the reality of life and death in a simulated environment.”

Everything happening inside the simulation suites is recorded with static and pan-and-tilt high-resolution cameras as well as discretely placed microphones. The recording is controlled in a one-way mirror shielded room overlooking the suites.

But technology-enhanced teaching and learning at the new facility is not confined to the simulation suites. Any activity in the suites can be streamed back to the center's techno-modern inspired teaching space so students and instructors can watch and critically appraise performances in real-time.

The ExPERT Center also houses a biomedical sciences simulation laboratory. This laboratory has everything a private top of the line one has. It means students in the biomedical sciences learn the core professional competencies in an environment that better prepares them for the real life experience.

Read Also:
Computerized patients used to teach students (University of Portsmouth)
Students treat dummies that 'die' (BBC News)

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