USC nursing student Sara Bandish gave her patient fluids, unaware he had a bowel obstruction.
The next sound she heard turned her stomach, in more ways than one. SimMan 3G threw up.
An incredibly realistic medical simulator, SimMan 3G is one of the stars of the new Clinical Simulation Lab at USC's College of Nursing. The high-tech manikin (the preferred medical term to differentiate from department-store mannequins) breathes, has a pulse, blinks his eyes and, with the aid of instructors using microphones, talks.
Fortunately for Bandish, SimMan's vomiting simulation is an audio-only response. But the sound not only grossed her out, it told her she had made a mistake.
And fortunately for the rest of us, Bandish and other students can learn from those mistakes on manikins without hurting anyone. With technological advances in manikins, more students are learning more before dealing with real flesh and blood.
"The key to learning is making the mistakes and learning from them," said Dr. John Schaefer, who holds an endowed chair at the Medical University of South Carolina and coordinates a statewide simulation program that includes USC, MUSC, Clemson, Greenville Tech and the Greenville Hospital System. "One of the reasons this works is the emotions."
The gut reaction Bandish felt at the sound of vomiting was intensified moments later when her entire group gathered for debriefing and watched video of their work.
"You get to watch yourself mess up, and that helps you," said Bandish, a senior from New Jersey. "I remember every mistake I made."
Bandish was in the first group to use the new lab last spring. It's fully online this fall, complete with hospital beds and medical equipment. One of the high-tech manikins can give birth to a baby, and then student nurses get to deal with a baby manikin.
"The manikins are great because you might be apprehensive when it comes to working with a live person," said Crystal Gilmore-Hope, a senior from Rock Hill. "It bridges the gap."
A SimMan 3G costs about $60,000. The new USC lab has two, plus a pregnant Noelle and baby Hal. Older models also are being used.
Equally important is the computer equipment and software that allows instructors to give the manikins certain symptoms - from rising blood pressure to a fast pulse to a gurgling stomach. The university has spent nearly $500,000 on the lab, said Peggy Hewlett, dean of the College of Nursing.
The students not only have to recognize and deal with symptoms, they learn their way around a hospital bed and how to work as a team. Because the manikins can be set up to provide the same lesson to dozens of small groups, the lab allows instructors to deal with more students more efficiently.
With the current shortage of nurses and nursing instructors in the state, the manikin lab could allow USC to admit and train more students, Hewlett said.
The manikins will be used for more than 12,500 student hours this fall. At some point, one of those students might "kill" a manikin.
"The environment should be stressful," Schaefer said. "Sometimes it's OK to let a simulator die, but you want them to learn from that."