Sam the Simulator comes to rookie nurses' aid

November 16, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Lying in a hospital bed, Sam looked healthy enough, but sounded worried.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm not going to breathe," he said. At that moment, the gentle heaving of his chest came to a halt and his eyes closed.

"He's dead," nurse Holly Gindlesperger said.

Death came peacefully for Sam - this time - but Gindlesperger recalled a more frantic death scene for the patient simulator.

"Nobody told me one time there was family back with the patient and he was dying," Gindlesperger said. The point of that exercise was to give nurses experience in dealing with grieving relatives, she said.


With his ability to come back to life, Lazarus might have been a better name.

Few patients would want to be the test case for a rookie nurse doing her first intubation or catheterization, so Sam serves as the stand-in, said Desiree Tritle, the director of nursing education and professional development for Summit Health.

"We have Sam and Simon who can become Samantha or Simone," Tritle said of the simulators. "We can change parts and add a few details to make him a woman."

On Wednesday at Summit Health's Nursing Education and Professional Development program, Sam was fitted out as "Standard Man," a normal 35-year-old male, Tritle said. On another occasion, he could be the "Truck Driver," a 55-year-old man with some of the associated health problems of a middle-aged man with a couple of bad habits.

The staff also can change a few more parts and settings and make Sam into "Standard Woman," an elderly woman with cardiac disease, or even a pediatric patient, albeit he would be one big kid.

"What is exciting about him is you can do anything to him you could do to a person," Tritle said.

Sam, who along with Simon cost about $90,000, breathes, has a pulse and blood pressure, blinks his eyes and even can converse with the nurses, although someone in the control room next to the simulation lab has to do the talking for him.

On this day it was Tynia Weigle, a clinical nurse educator, who was sitting in the control room, observing the action through a two-way mirror and by a television monitor, speaking on behalf of Sam and manipulating his functions on a computer.

"The cool thing about this guy is ... they train military people on this thing," nurse Michaela David said of Sam, manufactured by Medical Education Technology Inc. of Sarasota, Fla.

Tritle said the training allows staff to evaluate the performance of individuals and teams in an emergency room or operating room setting. Sam and Simon soon will be joined by Noelle, a simulator that gives birth to a simulated infant, she said.

"A lot of individuals come out of nursing school who are not as clinically proficient as they should be," Tritle said. With the simulators, they can train through scores of scenarios from an amputated limb to a cardiac arrest.

"One of the worst things for a new nurse is to defibrillate someone for the first time," she said. Sam helps the new nurses "bridge that gap between school and real life," she said.

Even behavioral health staff can practice doing patient assessments on Sam, asking him questions and getting responses to determine his state of mind.

"Tynia is very good at that," Tritle said.

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