Robotic patients put MGCCC students' nursing skills to the test

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Health training has gone high-tech for nursing students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Gulf Coast recently opened a new Healthcare Simulation Center off Seaway Road. The lab puts students in a hospital setting with patients who act like real humans.

"He's not responding right now, Mr. Wilson!" a nursing student shouted.

It looked like a scene straight out of a TV medical drama. In the scenario, a 65-year-old man was rushed to the ER with heart problems.

"He has no acute hemorrhage," one nursing student said.

The symptoms pointed to a stroke. The nursing students had to quickly decide what to do next. Their patient, though, was not so cooperative.

"Go away!" the man shouted.

"We're trying to help you," the nursing students told him.

"William Wilson" is one of five pretend patients at the Healthcare Simulation Center in Gulfport.

"Just like a real human, they can blink, they can sweat, they can breathe, they have pulses, they can pee. So really, anything you would do as a nurse, give IV fluids, insert a catheter, insert a breathing tube, all of that you can do on these people," said Tiffany Jasperson, Simulation Center Director.

The robots' bodies can also respond to medication and other treatments.

"If the student shines a light in his eyes, the pupils will respond. They'll constrict just like a real human would. There is a setting within the mannequin that if the students give a medication, the mannequin's heart rate will come down," Jasperson explained.

"I thought it was really neat that we got the experience to do it, because we have a simulation lab in class, but our mannequins don't breathe. They don't blink. They don't have all these functions that this one does," said MGCCC Nursing Student Katie Pizzetta.

"It's exactly what we'll be dealing with in real life. It makes you feel like you're really in the moment so you're on your toes and you do what you're supposed to do. It really pushes you and I like that," said MGCCC Nursing Student Nichelle Scott.

In the next room, instructors can control the patients' voices and reactions and observe how students respond. Treating the life-life patients can prepare the students for careers in the health field and for those split-second decisions that can save a life.

"It's very nerve wracking. With this mannequin, it does what really happens. It drools, it sweats, cries, it says, 'Move.' It says, 'Don't touch me'. It does everything and it's an experience," said Scott.

"It makes us a better nurse. Of course, experience always helps," said Pizzetta.

There are three male adult simulators, one birthing simulator, and an infant. Next semester, about 300 Allied Health students will also get to participate in the Simulation Center.

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