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MATT’s situation is dire: His severed right leg is spurting blood, he’s got a collapsed lung, burns cover most of his torso, and there’s a gash under his left eye.
His chances of survival are unclear, but MATT has succeeded in his mission: to educate aspiring doctors, nurses, first responders, and other medical providers to deliver lifesaving care to patients in emergency situations.
Short for Multiple Amputation Trauma Trainer, MATT is one of dozens of patient simulators on display at the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare, a five-day conference promoting innovation and best practices in health care simulation sponsored by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.
More than 4,000 participants weaved through the Henry B. González Convention Center on Monday to view products for sale and participate in education sessions instructed by health care simulation experts from across the globe.
Medical mannequins with computerized heart rates, pulses, and voices that can moan and make other sounds have become an important teaching tool enabling medical providers to gain experience working through difficult cases, said Keary Miller, president of Innovative Tactical Training Solutions (ITTS), one of more than 250 presenters at the conference. These high-tech mannequins can also sweat, bleed, respond to medication, and receive lifesaving procedures, including tracheostomies and amputations.
“[Patient simulators] provide the opportunity for what we call experiential learning,” Miller said. “It’s not PowerPoints and slides. You learn how to get down in the dirt and interact with the body, and really get to put your knowledge to the test.
“Having a hyper-realistic presentation where wounds are realistically depicted and actively bleed is important, because most nursing and medical students will never witness a real person in this situation until going out into the field.”
Miller, a 36-year military veteran, said that when it comes to the “golden hour” of saving someone’s life, patient simulators give learners “the opportunity to develop muscle memory when it comes to acting quickly in traumatic situations.”
“You can’t necessarily teach someone to remain calm in a situation they have never experienced. [Patient simulators] help people develop their skills, and understand what they are capable of,” he said.
The ITTS patient simulator, TOMManikin, is made even more realistic by virtual-reality headsets that allow the user to see internal organs and interact with the patient as it changes expression and responds to treatment. “It’s both emotional education and medical education,” Miller said.
On another table lies Adam X, whose 200-pound body has several puncture wounds, and a left foot that is nearly severed. Dervis Demirtas, CEO of Medical X, which created the patient simulator, said the basic model that allows users to complete oral and nasal intubation, insert a catheter, and complete intravenous therapy, costs around $13,000. “It’s the cheapest model on the current market,” he said.
The “most realistic model” sold by Medical X costs $70,000.
In the last several decades, medical simulation technology has improved so much in that medical students can learn anatomy by walking around a lifelike digital hologram for a heart and transport themselves inside it to see the valves and pumping blood.
A growing number of hospitals and medical schools have embraced virtual technology with the goal of providing better and faster training for students, doctors, and surgeons, whose skill can mean the difference between life and death for a person in medical distress.
Alex Hoeger, medical simulation technician with the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, Connecticut, said he attended the conference to get a feel for what other schools and companies have been able to develop for their audiences.
“I have only been developing these products for the last six months, and coming here I am seeing that there is a lot more high-fidelity stuff here than I even thought was available in the market,” Hoeger said. “Some of these [patient simulators] are really high-tech and cool, but for educating our students, we are looking for something a little more versatile.”