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This Tri-Cities hospital is using human simulators to save lives

Stan is helping other medical professionals save your life

Kadlec Regional Medical Center has a simulation lab to help train medical professionals for real life situations.
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Kadlec Regional Medical Center has a simulation lab to help train medical professionals for real life situations.

Stan was having a bad day.

He was wheezing and mumbling.

“My chest is tight,” he said, his voice full of tension.

He’s had plenty of other troubles, too, in recent years. Bloody wounds, a blood clot after surgery.

He’s been shocked with defibrillators more times that you could count.

But it’s OK — it’s what Stan was built for.

He’s not a person, but a human-like piece of equipment used to help Kadlec Regional Medical Center employees prepare and practice for real-world situations with real-life patients.

In medical parlance, Stan is a “high-fidelity human patient simulator.”

Kadlec has several simulators in its simulation lab — from a tiny preemie to 170-pound Stan.

“(Simulation) is, by far, the most effective educational tool for improving people’s clinical performance,” said Mike Anderson, who runs the lab. “You can read and look at videos all you want, but until you stand there and feel a pulse, until you do the chest compressions, until you do all that stuff — it’s a huge, huge advance in learning.”

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Clinical educator Donna Osborne shows the simulation lab at Kadlec Regional Medical Center where a human-like piece of equipment is used to help employees prepare and practice for real patients. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

The lab is set up in part of Kadlec’s old intensive care unit, or ICU. The space became available after the Richland hospital finished its four-story expansion of the River Pavilion in 2016.

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Along with Stan, the lab has two other adult simulators — a male and a female.

The female is a labor and delivery simulator that can give birth.

The lab also has a preemie baby at 25 weeks gestation, plus a newborn and an older child.

Stan is particularly sophisticated. He blinks; his pupils react to light. He breathes, and you can feel a pulse and check for belly sounds.

He can even talk, with Anderson or others supplying his voice via computer.

In the lab, which is set up like a working hospital floor, Anderson and clinical educators like Donna Osborne present scenarios to help new Kadlec employees learn the ropes and more veteran staff hone their skills.

The scenarios can range from airway issues to cardiac arrest.

Sometimes, they have nothing to do with medicine.

For example, maintenance employees recently came through to practice how to interact with patients when they’re changing a light bulb or doing similar work in a patient room.

Medical workers also used the lab to practice speaking up in high-pressure, high-stakes situations.

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Clinical educator Donna Osborne, left, and Mike Anderson, who runs the lab, stand inside the simulation room that looks the same as the hospital room employees would be working in. The human-like piece of equipment is used to help Kadlec Regional Medical Center employees prepare and practice for real patients. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

Health care providers are increasingly turning toward simulation to help in training, as it’s a safe environment in which to practice the life-and-death skills and decisions they so often must face.

“I’ve seen better patient outcomes because (employees) get to practice and see results in real time,” Osborne said.

Anderson tells employees who come into the lab that, “ ‘This is where I want you to make mistakes and ask questions because we have the experts here to answer you. So when you go out there, you have the right idea in your head of what you should do, and leave the bad stuff here,’ ” he told the Herald.

Stan is something of a celebrity, as a simulator of his type appeared on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.”

In the Kadlec lab on the recent day, Anderson showed what Stan can do.

He made Stan speak, giving him tightness in his chest and problems breathing.

Osborne, a nurse, got out a stethoscope and listened to Stan’s chest.

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Stan the human-simulator and a 25-week preemie baby simulator are used in a lab at Kadlec Regional Medical Center to train employees for real patients. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

She asked him questions, with Anderson providing Stan’s voice from the nurse’s station.

Within a minute or so, Osborne had calmed Stan down and determined a plan of action.

It was all pretend, but it felt immediate and real.

Anderson said he’d like to keep expanding the lab so even more people can benefit from it. He envisions a regional simulation lab where staff from other facilities also can train and learn.

It’s valuable and meaningful work, he said.

“It’s really fun to teach people,” Anderson said. “It’s really fun to see the light turn on.”

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, sschilling@tricityherald.com
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