Students learn from robotic family

Chris James/Pioneer
Monica Holland; Human Patient Simulator and Nursing Lab coordinator; listens for respiration problems with the human patient simulator Fred. This robot and others in the lab; from Medical Education Technologies; Inc. or METI; have proven to be an invaluable resource for the nursing and EMS programs; Holland said.

Nurses have to be able to insert chest tubes, administer fluids and anesthesia, even measure urine output.

Before they perform these procedures on patients, OCCC’s student nurses practice on Dan the Human Patient Simulator, and other simulators in the health professions labs, said Monica Holland, nursing lab coordinator. These include Gabby and Hal, Fred and Noelle.

For just under $200,000, OCCC’s first human patient simulator was purchased in 2004. Dan is a high fidelity, or life-like, robot that comes with technologically advanced features such as pupil dilation, voice response, and a pulse.

This robot, from Medical Education Technologies, Inc., or METI, has proven to be an invaluable resource for the nursing and EMS programs, Holland said.

She discussed the additions to OCCC’s robotic family since receiving Dan.

“We have two birthing simulators, one of which is computer run. There’s Gabby, she’s brand new, and baby Hal. Gabby is from Gaumard.”

Gabby, so named for the room in which she resides, offers students valuable experience in labor and delivery.

Nursing Professor Heather Campbell-Williams explained how robots help in the teaching process.

“The students like simulations because it puts them in real life situations without the fear of messing up,” she said.

Holland said they are worth the expense.

“At $38,000, Gabby is more than worth her cost,” she said. “She is great for students.”

The high-tech HPS models like Dan aren’t always hassle-free, however. Dan’s greatest feature, his computer-monitored simulations, keeps him tethered to the wall, Campbell-Williams said.

“Sometimes Dan and Fred run out of gases, and that’s why I prefer Noelle,” she said. “She doesn’t have as many glitches because she isn’t as complex.”

Holland said Dan was converted from gases to a compressor in 2010.

“Moving to a compressor was a massive improvement,” Holland said, and it saved money.

The Health Professions Program also purchased a handful of mannequins, each costing about $1,800, who serve to hone more basic skills, such as CPR and intravenous line insertion.

“You see the development of patient care as the students interact with these dolls,” Holland said. “I once saw a student try to brush the hair out of a doll’s eyes to comfort it.”

Almost every student respects the value of the simulator, Holland said. The environment is designed to be serious but fun, and is one of the highlights of the OCCC Nursing Program.

“We are a very competitive program,” Holland said, “in that our program offers a lot of clinical experiences and exposure to complex situations.”

Funding for simulators comes from grants, namely the Carl Perkins Grant, which is currently being used to purchase new Vital Simulation Dolls from the Laerdal company.

To contact Erin Brinkworth, email

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