One of the latest innovations in health education, particularly in nursing & for nurse practitioner students, are simulation mannequins. These complex machines have the capability of simulating events that can happen in the course of caring for a patient while educators evaluate if the response of the student was appropriate. In just the last few years, the simulation mannequins have become much more technologically advanced but they have been around helping students for well over 40 years. One of the most popular models of mannequin is “Harvey.” Harvey can simulate certain cardiac conditions and breath sounds.
The use of simulators in health care education makes complete sense. We may not always have the opportunity to learn about a certain disease process with an actual patient. The simulator ensures that a student will be repeatedly exposed to the required scenarios. The health care profession has long relied on “on the job” training to teach it’s students. The potential issue is that we are dealing with actual patients and the stakes are high. After all, the landmark report of the Institue of Medicine’s report, “To Err is Human,” estimates that up to 98,000 people die every year from preventable hospital-based medical errors. This number estimates potential hospital deaths only – not the mistakes that are made within the hospitals walls or the deaths and mistakes outside of the hospital. We can no longer rely on the credo: “see one, do one, teach one” and expect good outcomes.
Another industry that relies on heavy use of simulators are the airlines. Pilots spend thousands of hours in simulators while they are in training and even throughout their careers. Airlines are another industry where the stakes are high and mistakes can prove catastrophic. The outcome of Flight 1549 might have been very different if it weren’t for Captain Sully at the command with all of his flight and simulator experience.
This isn’t the first time that healthcare has borrowed from the airline industry. Throughout the years, there have been a number of incorrect surgeries performed on the wrong body part. Hospitals now perform a pre-surgery check list before every surgery – just as pilots perform their pre-flight checklist. The data is still being complied as to it’s effectiveness but it is a step that is quite intuitive.
Finally, health care simulators have served as a teaching tool for multidisciplinary collaboration. This study by Fernandez et al., found that 98% of pharmacy students agreed or strongly agreed “…that they learned material relevant to their current studies.”
Many nursing schools have purchased or are in the process of purchasing these expensive simulators (they can cost nearly $100k). Mannequin simulators will serve as an additional tool for educators to prepare students for real life scenarios and can possibly reduce the many number of mistakes made in health care.