High-Tech, User-Friendly, and Cruelty-Free: New Directions in Medical Education
Computer technology can be a real lifesaver. Two new teaching programs have incorporated cutting-edge technology into interactive teaching tools for medical students, physicians, and other health professionals.
An interactive CD-ROM, called SimBioSys Physiology Labs (Critical Concepts, Chicago, Ill.), allows students to perform clinical procedures, such as administering drugs, placing catheters, setting a pacemaker, and many others. Students monitor their virtual patient while learning cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal physiology, among many other subjects organized in 19 sections. The program includes reviews, quizzes, and real-time exercises designed to test student comprehension.
A second program, SimBioSys Clinics, incorporates physiology in a clinical setting. Users can perform a virtual physical exam, run an echocardiogram, use x-ray data, monitor blood gasses, cardiac output, and other vital signs, and administer drugs and fluids to a critically ill "patient."
Both of these innovative CD-ROMs apply physiology concepts in a setting that allows unlimited repetition until students have mastered the material, unlike live animal laboratories where students are slotted into a one-time exposure to try to grasp their assigned material. Also, these computer programs cost thousands of dollars less than animal laboratory courses and eliminate ethical concerns. These programs can also be combined with an operating room observation, similar to Harvard Medical School's practicum, to provide an unparalleled learning opportunity.
Perhaps the most technologically advanced teaching manikin ever developed is the Human Patient Simulator (Medical Education Technologies, Inc., Sarasota, Fla.), affectionately known as "STAN." It can be customized for almost any level of medical education, from medical students, EMTs, and nurses to combat medical personnel and ER doctors.
STAN is brought to life through a computer that simulates a multitude of clinical scenarios, producing humanlike reactions. STAN's vital signs can be monitored using common ER equipment. STAN's chest rises and falls. He has breath and heart sounds, radial, brachial, pedal, femoral and carotid pulses, pupils that dilate or constrict in response to light or to simulate neurological trauma, lungs that take in oxygen and actually exhale carbon dioxide, and a tongue that swells.
Medical students can learn physiological and pharmacological concepts by injecting STAN with virtual drugs instead of watching the effects of drugs on live dogs or pigs. ER nurses can master intubation without the use of animals. Physicians can practice chest tube insertion, needle decompression, and pericardiocentesis without the use of live dogs or pigs in trauma courses. STAN provides an unusual opportunity for individuals at varied expertise levels to perfect a wide array of skills.
Medical Education Technologies, Inc.
6000 Fruitville Rd.
Sarasota, Fla. 34232