Students massage the uterus of SimMom during a senior Mother/Baby simulation.

Illinois Wesleyan School of Nursing Enhances Learning with SimMan and SimMom

The patient is wheezing. His pulse is racing. If nothing more is done in the next four minutes and nine seconds, he will die.

Illinois Wesleyan University nursing students huddle around the patient, attempting to save his life. “Congratulations, we just saved SimMan,” says Becky Altic, Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator at IWU, as the students breathe a sigh of relief.

Known as SimMan, the patient is an anatomical model of the full human body, or manikin, designed to realistically simulate many types of medical management and crisis scenarios. “He looks real, sounds real, and reacts like a real person,” said Christie Ogden, a former nursing student and laboratory assistant at Illinois Wesleyan.

SimMan is connected to a computer program in a control room that allows the Simulation Educator to control his vital signs, alter his medical conditions with over 2,500 cardiac rhythms, program specific scenarios, and record their own sound bytes.  Students are visualized through a one-way window, and can be heard, but cannot see or hear into the control room.  Nursing faculty work with the Simulation Educator in order to alter his physical condition and monitor the extent to which different medical situations affect students’ critical thinking, self-confidence, knowledge, and nursing skills. “We are taught how to handle potentially life or death situations, and with training on SimMan, our preparation, education, and confidence will be better than ever,” said Ogden.

Like a real person, SimMan’s blood pressure can be taken automatically, auscultated (through a stethoscope), or palpated (by touch). He also has a patent airway system, multiple inflatable bladders, the ability to clench his teeth, and a life-size intubation head with a flexible tongue, vocal chords, and trachea. 

With regular access to SimMan, students do not have to wait until a clinical experience to practice a wide variety of procedures. Sophomores will use SimMan to practice taking vital signs and auscultate abnormal sounds. "Mini" Simulations help them with their health assessment skills in their first semester.  They will "receive" their first postoperative patient in the simulation lab. Juniors will insert a Foley catheter, change a central line dressing, manage congestive heart failure and care for a suicidal patient among other "scenarios".  Seniors respond to a "code blue", and manage SimMom, a laboring patient receiving Magnesium Sulfate.  Once SimMom delivers her baby, she develops a postpartum hemorrhage.  If students feel uncomfortable or have questions following a clinical day in the hospital, instructors can recreate hospital scenarios in the laboratory using either adult simulated manikin for students to practice. In addition, state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment enables instructors to record training sessions and provide students with detailed debriefings.

IWU is fortunate to have several simulated manikins manufactured by Laerdal, a Texas supplier of emergency medical products and training solutions. Deloris Helsley Ascher, a 1953 Illinois Wesleyan and Brokaw School of Nursing alumna, donated half of the cost for IWU's original SimMan with a challenge to IWU alumni.  Helsley-Ascher received the IWU Special Lifetime Achievement Award at IWU’s 2003 Homecoming for her many years of contribution to the School of Nursing. “Nursing is very important to me,” said Helsley-Ascher, “and I have loved the profession and desire to do whatever I can to help the University continue with its program of excellence in the field of nursing.”

Along with the use of several simulated manikins, IWU students also benefit  from having a Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator as part of the professional staff.  Faculty from every theoretical class work with the Simulation Educator, a Registered Nurse,  to develop new, and improve existing scenarios.  These are used to enhance students' experiences and have been found to be an excellent learning tool.