Yesterday, Stan D. Ardman died at the hands of medical students. He will probably die again tomorrow. That’s because Stan, short for Standard Man, is actually a human patient simulator developed by Medical Education Technologies Inc. (METI) to improve the way medicine is taught.
Stan and other amazing medical education tools are revolutionizing the way institutions train physicians by providing sound, cost-effective, and humane alternatives to the use of animals. Features of individual simulators vary, but they all allow students to practice lifesaving procedures without harming human patients or animals.
In 2004, Forbes magazine referred to Standard Man as the “perfect patient.” Capable of simulating cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic characteristics and responses down to the flutter of an eyelid, Stan reacts appropriately to more than 55 different drugs. And he’s not afraid to speak up if he’s in pain! Possibly the most realistic simulator available today, METI’s human patient simulator costs $160,000 to $200,000, depending on features. With this investment, medical schools avoid the repeated costs of animal laboratories, while students can review educational material as often as they like—something animal laboratories could not offer. Find more details at www.Meti.com.
SimMan, a full patient simulator created by Laerdal, provides a wide variety of realistic scenarios in patient care. SimMan ranges from $23,000 to $40,000, depending on accessories and modules. For more information, visit www.Laerdal.com.
Perhaps the most mature patient of the bunch, Harvey was developed by the University of Miami in 1968. Since then, this cardiac patient simulator has lost about 600 pounds and acquired many advanced features. Capable of imitating 30 different conditions, Harvey includes self-evaluation programs for study without an instructor. Transmitters, receivers, and video cameras allow larger groups to participate from remote offices, lecture halls, or classrooms. Including shipping, Harvey costs about $53,000.
Other Surgery Training Tools
Other, less costly, simulators help students train to perform endoscopic and laparoscopic surgery. Examples include Meti’s SurgicalSIM and Immersion Medical’s Laparoscopy Surgical Workstation. Both tools allow the user to practice the skills of a laparoscopic surgeon—without a patient present.
Mastering the Basics
Several computer programs illustrate basic principles of physiology and pharmacology that are emphasized in the first two years of medical education. These programs resemble the screens of monitors commonly found in operating rooms. With the click of a button, students can administer drugs and observe physiological responses. Suppliers include A.D.A.M. (www.Adam.com), Critical Concepts, COACS (www.COACS.com), and Biosoft (www.Biosoft.com).
Although even fourth-year medical students will not be expected (or allowed) to perform human surgeries without additional training, they should be ready to suture wounds. Artificial models of human skin are now replacing pigs’ feet and other slaughterhouse byproducts for suturing practice. Available models include a range of artificial tissue layers, including subcutaneous fat and muscle. For a list of companies providing skin models, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
It should be acknowledged that most medical schools that eliminate animal laboratories from their curricula do so without any special alternative. They have found that lectures and reading materials convey the same physiological knowledge that animal laboratories were designed to illustrate. Similarly, clinical years provide ample opportunities for suture practice without animals. Even so, schools aiming for high-tech education will find that excellent educational products are readily available.