TERRE HAUTE —
“Please, I need something for the pain,” said hospital patient Noelle, who was about to give birth. “Give me an epidural.”
Nearby, another patient, Sherry, was having trouble breathing because of an allergic reaction to a blood transfusion.
Some Indiana State University nursing students, under the supervision of instructor Donna Crawford, administered oxygen and contacted Sherry’s doctor, who directed them to give her epinephrine to help open her airways and relieve other symptoms. She was recovering from surgery, which she had the day before.
“Noelle” and “Sherry” aren’t real people, but they are human-like patient simulators that replicate various health conditions. Another simulator, “Hal,” is Noelle’s baby.
The simulators are located in the new Rural Health Innovation Collaborative (RHIC) Simulation Center, which conducted a grand opening Thursday.
Located on the second floor of Union Hospital West, the high-tech learning lab will be used to train future health care professionals in the skills they will need once they practice in the real world.
Union Hospital, Indiana State University and Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley have developed the simulation center, where students learn to work together to care for patients using real-life scenarios.
Medical students from Indiana University School of Medicine, local secondary school students and hospital staff will also have access to the center.
Union Hospital has provided the space, ISU is funding two staff members and Ivy Tech has provided equipment. “By coming together, we’re able to leverage dollars and resources,” said Lorrie Heber, Union Hospital spokeswoman.
Another benefit to the simulation center is that the future medical professionals “will be able to learn together, just as they would in the real world,” Heber said. Currently, students in different fields tend to learn in “silos” and may not interact enough.
Simulator Sherry can be programmed to suffer a heart attack, food poisoning or other health conditions. She also can be converted to a male patient, dubbed Stan, the Meti-man. (Meti manufactures the simulator).
Noelle gives birth, through traditional delivery and Cesarean. She can simulate various complications, while baby Hal also can have complications that include breathing difficulties, when its face lights up blue. Noelle can be programmed to speak on her own; on Thursday, in addition to asking for an epidural, she also said: “The baby’s coming” and “Don’t touch me.”
The simulators include fully-formed human beings, but there also are body part simulators, including forearms where students can practice giving IVs or drawing blood. There are head and neck simulators in which students can practicing “intubating,” or putting a tube down someone’s throat for breathing purposes.
There is even a posterior simulator where students can practice doing a scope of the lower colon.
The center brings together under one roof simulators and equipment that the partners already had and may have purchased many years ago.
Going forward, it is expected the RHIC Simulation Center will cost about $350,000 annually to maintain. That includes staffing, supplies and facilities maintenance. The partners will be looking for grant opportunities and additional community support to build an endowment.
ISU is funding two staff positions, including that of center director Jack Jaeger, a former Union Hospital critical care nurse.
“It’s such a great thing to see all of these different groups coming together for something like this,” Jaeger said.
The simulation center allows students in health care professions to practice what they learn in class, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. “It’s OK to make a mistake on a human patient simulator. It’s not OK to make a mistake on a human patient,” he said.
In the future, the center hopes to have a pediatric simulator, which mimics a 6-year-old.
Biff Williams, dean of ISU’s College of Nursing, Health and Human Services, said ISU students in several programs will benefit from the simulation center, made possible and affordable through the partnership.
Now, the focus will be on fundraising and creating an endowment “so [the center] can be self-sustaining,” he said.
In addition to the director position, ISU also is funding a technology specialist for the center, and a search is ongoing.
Heber noted that simulator Stan (aka Sherry) will need to be replaced at some point because he is about 10 years old and is becoming outdated. The cost is estimated at about $75,000. The manufacturer has made upgrades to the human patient simulator.
During Thursday’s open house, visitors could observe demonstrations with the simulators.
The ISU students working with “Sherry Haute” were in Crawford’s pharmacology course.
One of the students asked Sherry how she was doing. “I’m a little short of breath,” Sherry said. Sherry wasn’t responding on her own; someone in a nearby control room listened to what was happening and gave the appropriate responses.
ISU student Joe Weiss told her, “Hey, Sherry, we’re going to give you a little oxygen.” Student Michael Mardis called Sherry’s doctor.
After the students finished their scenario, they debriefed about what happened, what they did right and wrong and what they might have done differently.
“Good job,” Crawford said.
ISU nursing student Montana Winters said that by using the human simulators, “It’s more real life. There are things that go wrong, so we get that experience. We get to know what to do when that happens.”
ISU nursing student Mallory Cook said she is taking three nursing classes, and by practicing on simulators, “We put it all together.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or email@example.com.