UM nursing students use mannequins to learn crisis care

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

In her hospital room, Mrs. Sanchez was in stable condition as her family gathered by her bedside, but within minutes she went into cardiac arrest and died soon after.

Luckily, this health tragedy wasn’t real life: Mrs. Sanchez is one of the high-fidelity simulation mannequins used to teach nursing students at the University of Michigan how to respond to medical emergencies.

University of Michigan School of Nursing student Hannah Boley starts to perform CPR on Mrs. Sanchez, one of the several high-tech, life-like mannequins the university uses to train students in real-life simulations, after she unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest during the simulation, Monday afternoon, March 28, 2016. (Photo by Lon Horwedel/special to the Detroit News)

As a part of the University of Michigan School of Nursing’s new building, which opened last fall, hands-on techniques such as the mannequins are used in the facility’s Clinical Learning Center Simulation Lab.

The life-like patients cost about $80,000 each and can be programmed to bleed, yell in pain, vomit and ask questions.

Victoria, the birthing mannequin, can deliver a baby and mimic any type of health complications, such as kidney failure, spetic shock and seizures.

Michelle Aebersold, director of the Clinical Learning Center at the School of Nursing, said the students are put in life-like situations within the classroom to prepare them to handle real-life crises.

“The importance of the simulation lab is for our students to see what can happen if the proper steps are not taken and then do it right the next time and never forget,” said Aebersold, who is also a clinical associate professor.

The 13,000-square-foot Clinical Learning Center and simulation facility is part of a 75,000-square-foot, $50 million new building. The learning center houses six simulation rooms, four control rooms, four patient rooms, three debriefing rooms, an anatomy lab, nursing skills lab, skills training room, interaction area and assessment lab.

Each simulation is recorded while students interact with the patient. The clinical instructors act as the control system for the mannequin as they watch behind a one-way mirror. After each session, the students meet and watch the video of the simulation to go over key points or discuss any errors that were made.

The simulation lab was reminiscent of a real hospital emergency as fourth-year nursing student Kendra Mikatarian, 22, rushed to the patient’s side to check her vitals after Mrs. Sanchez started complaining about back pain and nausea.

She was having a heart attack.

“I was a little panicked at first, but I was able to regroup and act quickly on my toes. You have to really use critical thinking skills,” the Virginia native said. “The simulation felt so real, but it’s very beneficial for us to lean so we can become better nurses.”

Aebersold said it is crucial for students to recognize symptoms in paitents, and how they can vary even for the same condition.

“Heart attack symptoms differ in men and women. Most people know the common ones, like shortness of breath and chest pains, but in women, the signs could be stomach discomfort or a backache,” she said. “Being able to spot a symptom early can save a person’s life.”

In the last year, it was estimated that 400,000 people died from preventable medical errors, which makes that the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Journal of Patient Safety.

One of the many lessons that nursing students learn during training is how to decide when to run code. Code is when a patient goes into cardiac arrest and needs immediate help.

“During nurse training, some students will never have to run code on a patient. Their first experience might occur when they beceome a nurse and it’s imporant to know when and the timing of running a code,” Aebersold. “With simulation, they can keep going over it until it becomes second nature and there is no hesitation involved.”

Before Danielle Spicuzzi, 22, goes to the debriefing room to go over what happened in the simulation lab, she reflects on her last semester of nursing school.

“These simulations feel like real life, but it’s for us to learn. The instructors don’t judge you and they are here to make us better,” Spicuzzi said. “I can see the improvements and the progress that I have made over the years and these are lessons I will never forget.”

(313) 222-1855