Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune is using futuristic simulation technology to train corpsman and give experienced physicians a place to refine their skills. We speak with experts about the new simulation lab and explain how it works.
Life-like mannequins controlled by computers are part of a new simulation lab at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. The lab will be used to train new corpsmen on how to do procedures without having a real patient in front of them. It can also be used to keep experienced doctors proficient with their current skills and experiment with new treatment methods. Frank St. Denis is a simulation technician. He is responsible for setting up the training equipment. Before this technology existed, St. Denis says students would practice different procedures on patients.
“Medical simulation is the new wave of the future. There’s a push to get away from live tissue training. So to facilitate the training, you need to have a simulation lab set up so that they can maintain their proficiency and their skills, plus learn new things.”
The new equipment was installed at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in November. It’s housed in a large, sound proof room modeled a typical hospital unit. Department Head for Staff Education and Training Navy Lt. Commander Lorrie Meyer says there are two beds, one with a resuscitation mannequin and another setup like a delivery room with a birthing mannequin.
“Your team of students or doctors will walk in, and they will see a patient there. It’ll be just a health care setting with the patient in the bed and the students start their assessment and the scenario begins.”
The remotely controlled mannequins, ranging in cost from 75 thousand to more than 100 thousand dollars are operated using a computer. St. Denis programs the mannequins for different scenarios in an attempt to test student and physician ability in treating a variety of ailments including heart attacks, laparoscopic procedures and child birthing.
“It’s as real as without putting a real person down there as you can get it. The mannequin can bleed, it can cry, it will vomit, it will sweat, it has a heartbeat, its chest goes up and down, you can examine its eyes and you can watch his pupils react to light. It will have seizures, mimic any type of medical event you want it to.”
The computer technology is set up in such a way that the mannequin responds to the physician’s treatment. If the right intervention is performed, the mannequin will respond positively. However, if the wrong treatment is administered, the mannequin will react negatively. Lt. Commander Meyer says the mannequins also have the ability to communicate with the physician using speech.
“It can say whatever we program it to say. You can make them scream, yell, and curse and say my stomach hurts, my foot hurts, or quit touching me or ouch that hurts when you touch, I mean we can program it to say whatever we want it to say.”
The mannequins are especially useful in training for traumatic situations, where things can change instantly. When running a scenario, the technician has the ability to create new experiences and challenges for physicians in an instant.
“say you have a person, you’re doing a cardiac arrest scenario and you decide you want to turn it into a airway management problem. You can change it from all of the sudden the guy is having a heart attack to he’s come back but now he has an airway problem. So you can change it on the fly.”
Training to use the equipment and familiarity with the technology usually takes one to two weeks. In addition to the two beds, Simulation tech Frank St. Denis says there are other training stations in the lab.
“It has a bunch of tables to set up various little single task trainer, so if someone wants to practice IV skills, there’s a separate trainer for that, or if you’re practicing some type of suturing and things like that, we’ve got separate little task trainers for that. Basically, if you picture a college class room, that’s basically what it is.”
There are other simulation labs similar to the one at Camp Lejeune are located at Navy Medical Center Portsmouth and Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Florida. East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine implements a similar hands-on skills lab including mannequins and models as well as computer-enhanced high-fidelity simulators in a reality-based, risk-free environment. For Public Radio East, I’m Jared Brumbaugh.