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Sacramento State News - California State University, Sacramento

November 21, 2006

New patient in Nursing is no dummy

Photo: Nursing students attend to SimMan, the high-tech simulated patient new to the Program this year.
Nursing students attend to SimMan, the high-tech simulated patient new to the program this year.

There’s a new patient for students in the Division of Nursing to attend to. His name is Larry, and as he lies on the table he occasionally groans, “I don’t feel good.” A monitor shows his heart rate and blood pressure. He gets poked, prodded, stabbed, has wounds dressed, goes into cardiac arrest and is administered CPR. But don’t feel too sorry for what the poor guy has to endure—he’s a life-size, high-tech simulated patient mannequin.

“SimMan—our simulated patient—is new to the Division of Nursing this year,” says department chair Ann Stoltz. “It has realistic anatomy and the capacity to have bodily fluids, and heart and breathing sounds, and it can respond to treatment in some of the same ways an actual living patient would.”

Nursing faculty—eight in all—were sent to a training facility in Texas for three days to learn how to work with the simulated patient. “It’s more responsive than the other simulated patients we have in the division,” says Stoltz. “If treatment is rendered incorrectly in a simulated life-threatening situation, the ‘patient’s’ system crashes. It’s as close to real-life situation as we’ve ever had here.”

Nursing professor Debra Brady is one of the faculty members trained to work with SimMan. She conducts clinical classes in which her students work directly with the simulated patient.

“SimMan’s name changes daily,” says Brady. “Today his name is Larry. A while ago it was Mel Gibson.”

And the mannequin is lifelike enough to earn a name, given his human tendencies. Brady can, with a click of a mouse, have Larry say things such as, “No, I don’t have diabetes,” “I am not allergic to any medications,” or, “That helped.” He also coughs, groans and sneezes. His chest rises and falls with each breath he takes.

“It’s a highly effective teaching tool for the students,” says Brady. “He’s so realistic that the students are excited and engaged. My teaching time is really maximized because they live the experience, instead of hearing about it in a lecture. It gives them valuable clinical experience, and they can make mistakes without doing the patient any harm.

“We practice several real-life trauma situations. This morning he had several stab wounds, and the students were able to stabilize him. This afternoon, he had a bad reaction to medication and went into cardiac arrest. Because of the students’ lack of experience, these are not situations they would get hands-on experience with in a real hospital.”

After the students administer care and the simulated patient is stabilized, they gather around a white board for a debriefing of the situation. The strengths and weaknesses of the treatment are written down and analyzed, and the students discuss what could have been done differently to provide better care.

“The simulated patient is fantastic,” says Kathleen Cabe, a nursing student. “Today is the first day I’ve worked with it. It’s so realistic. I can assess a situation as its happening. It also is a better use of time. In a hospital, we have to wait for something to happen to get experience.”

The simulated patient is new this year due to the increased funding the Division of Nursing received from the Chancellor’s Office to admit a larger number of students to the program and provide state-of-the-art training to its students. The University’s nursing program is highly competitive and has an exceptional graduation rate—95 percent.

Larry, for one, certainly appreciates the excellent care he gets from the nursing students. “Thank you,” he says. “That helped.”

For more information, contact Sacramento State’s Division of Nursing at (916) 278-6525. For media assistance, contact the Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •


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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •