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March 1, 2010

Mannequins help prepare NC EMTs

By Chelsea Kellner

CAPE FEAR, N.C. — A 911 call came from the Natural Sciences building on the Cape Fear Community College campus Friday afternoon.

A patient named Stan was flatlining. EMT paramedic student Alexandra Checo had to act fast.

With the injection of the right cocktail of drugs, Stan's blood pressure picked up and his heart rate was back to normal. Saved.

Stan isn't always so lucky.

"We were doing this yesterday, and we actually gave him a little too much: we killed him like three times," anatomy instructor Mark Van Cura said. "That's why we're glad we have a simulator."

"Stan," though his name changes according to the simulation, is one of two new human patient simulators purchased by Cape Fear Community College late last year. He's a state-of-the-art, life-sized mannequin that breathes, blinks and bleeds on cue. The idea is to give EMS, nursing and anatomy students hands-on experience in a variety of situations that can't be properly simulated by human actors.

"It's extremely creepy the first time you work on it," EMS coordinator Thomas Herron said. "When I reached across the head for something, (the company representative) made it sneeze, and it blew onto my arm. It was a really weird feeling."

Wireless signal
It works via wireless signal between the simulator and a computer program running on a laptop nearby. After the instructor feeds the scenario into the computer, the program processes any input from the students, whether they're administering medicine or snaking a tube down the simulated patient's throat, and reacts accordingly. The simulators are weighted just like a human body, and can speak in response to questions or pain stimuli.

The school purchased its first simulator for the North Campus with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Cape Fear Memorial Foundation, then nabbed the downtown version, a slightly different model, for about $30,000. The prices have come down significantly since Van Cura first started studying them, he said - the first models cost more than $200,000.

Van Cura recently authored a textbook on how to use these simulators in the classroom. CFCC hopes to obtain more in the future to create a virtual hospital with two floors of simulation labs.

Copyright 2010 Star-News, Inc.

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