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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 31, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 28
Actor, Robot 'Staff' Are Part of New $5 Million Training Center

By Eric Vohr
Johns Hopkins Medicine

A medical student places a chest tube in a patient lying on an operating table, while another student conducts a colonoscopy. Everything is just as it would be in a real operating or treatment room, except that the patients won't be harmed or complain if mistakes are made — they're robots.

These high-tech, electronically outfitted manikins are equipment in the new $5 million medical and surgical simulation training center at the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center in East Baltimore, which opened this month.

The "sim" center contains two fully operational ORs, two intensive care units, high-fidelity computerized manikins that mimic physiologic and behavioral response to procedures and 12 examination rooms where students practice routine exams on actors posing as patients with particular complaints and symptoms.

The manikins have breath sounds and heart tones, palpable pulses and a monitor that displays vital signs as students, physicians, nurses and other health care professionals practice everything from bag-mask ventilation, intubation and defibrillation to chest tube placement and endoscopies. Computer programs test decision-making skills and knowledge on topics such as advanced cardiac life support and trauma management.

"The idea is to get it right before they treat real patients," said the center's director, Elizabeth Hunt, assistant professor in the School of Medicine's Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine.

The troupe of paid professional actors who are trained to portray patients submit themselves to trainees who practice taking histories, performing physical exams, breaking bad news and communicating in a compassionate manner.

"Students can learn the science of medicine in many different ways, but there is only one good way to learn good bedside manner, and that is with real people," Hunt said.

Each of the 15 simulation rooms in the center is equipped with adjustable cameras, microphones, one-way glass for observer viewing and large flat-screen monitors so students and staff can quickly review trainees' performance while it's fresh in their minds.

In addition to training students and staff, Hunt says the center will be used to train medical staff on new equipment, and for teaching emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Outside groups may also be welcome during continued medical education seminars.


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