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New simulators enable VC respiratory care students to experience real-life scenarios

RC 4 Victoria College student Brandon Mills administers CPR to HAL, the new pediatric simulator recently purchased by VC through a grant from the M.G. and Lillie A. Johnson Foundation.

Five-year-old Hal had just been rescued after accidentally falling into the deep end of a family swimming pool. The boy is still unconscious when he arrives at the emergency room. His pupils are dilated. His breathing is shallow. Suddenly, Hal has no pulse.

That’s one of the real-life scenarios students in Victoria College’s Respiratory Care Program have experienced thanks to the recent acquisition of state-of-the art mannequins that simulate realistic patient responses. Funding for the mannequins and other new technology for the program was made possible by a $216,500 grant from the M.G. and Lillie A. Johnson Foundation.

“These high-fidelity mannequins allow our students to see the patients’ responses,” said VC Respiratory Care Clinical Coordinator Ceci Oldmixon. “The mannequins actually have physiological responses. The really nice thing about these mannequins is that we incorporate all our advanced skills and lower-grade skills all in one simulation.”

The Respiratory Care Lab at Victoria College recently sounded like a MASH unit as teams of students treated several of the mannequins with various emergency conditions.

“You have to act like its real life,” said second-year student Melina Padierna. “You have to think quickly, and you have to work with your team. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking.”

“It gets pretty intense in here,” said first-year student Brandon Mills. “This is as close as we can get without having a real patient. This technology gives me an opportunity to encounter things I have never seen before. When we get out in the real world and in a hospital setting, we should be very skilled at this.”

Before, VC students were trained only on “low-fidelity” mannequins. They had to be told by instructors how their patients were responding. Now, students can physically see the new mannequins’ responses just as they will at the bedside.

“The eyes move, they have a pulse and you can hear their breathing,” said second-year student Janese Perry. “When administering CPR, you see there is no pulse, so you jump right into action. You want to save that patient.”

Oldmixon said the new technology allows more peer-to-peer communication.

“Ninety percent of the communication we do in the hospital is oral communication, so that’s very important for them to be able to gain enough confidence to communicate effectively in stressful conditions,” Oldmixon said. “If all that great knowledge stays trapped inside their brains and doesn’t come out effectively to advocate for the patient, it impacts outcomes.”

The program also used the funds donated by the M.G. and Lillie A. Johnson Foundation to purchase two lung simulators, a ventilator, an advanced patient IV training arm, an intubation trainer and a patient communication simulator.

Victoria College’s Respiratory Care Program offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree. Successful completion of the program enables graduates to take a series of national board exams to become a registered respiratory therapist.

For information on Victoria College’s Respiratory Care Program, call (361) 573-3291.