Irvine’s Simulation Center

Sofia Panuelos | Staff Photographer

Four-year-old Brendan’s small, unsteady hands pushed a tracheal tube down a sweating, crying patient’s throat. His hands slipped momentarily and Dr. Darren Raphael quickly leaned over and helped him adjust.

“You got it,” he said to Brendan and, together, they finished the process.

As Brendan manually ventilated his successfully intubated patient, Dr. Raphael looked up to address the small audience gathered for the procedure. “You have not seen SimMan ‘til you’ve seen SimMan 3G.”

SimMan 3G is just one of several full body simulators at the UC Irvine Medical Education Simulation Center. SimMan 3G can blink, cry, sweat and foam at the mouth. Programmed through a laptop on a wireless connection, SimMan 3G is as real as any trauma patient. He has a pulse and he can even talk.

The center, which opened this past summer and is located off of Bison Avenue, is a 3,000-square-foot, technologically advanced facility – the first of its kind in Orange County. It includes a mock full-scale operating room, ER, trauma bay, obstetrics suite and critical care unit.

The center held its open house last Thursday evening, inviting the public to experience medical simulation training hands on.

The various simulators, like SimMan 3G, range from adults to babies and react to anesthesia and other treatments. While simulation training has been around in U.S. medical schools since the 90s, SimMan 3G (which is created by Laerdal, a medical equipment manufacturer out of Norway) is one of the most advanced – and reliable – patient simulators in the world.

At the open house, medical students and faculty members demonstrated the simulators’ advanced capabilities and also helped visitors intubate simulators.

“Our primary goal is to train medical students,” Dr. Sharon Lin, the center’s director, said, but noted that local Orange County firefighters and paramedics have also used the facility for training.

The purpose of simulation training is to prepare students for medical emergencies. Instructors program the simulators with various conditions from collapsed lungs to heart attacks. Then, students decide on the best course of action.

“This is a more controlled environment,” Lee Puckett, a fourth-year medical student said. Puckett was one of the students assisting visitors with intubating simulators, showing them the details of how to use the equipment and teaching them what not to do.

“They can practice here instead of practicing on any of us,” Cecilia Canales, the center’s operations director, said. “The good thing is, if something happens, you can hit reboot and the patient [the simulator] comes back to life.”

Canales, who has four years of experience in simulation-based medical education from UCLA, demonstrated a simulator’s reaction to medicine with a few clicks on a keyboard. Within seconds of administering a large dosage of atropine through a computer, the simulator’s heart rate rose dramatically.

Amongst the simulators was a child-sized simulator with one pupil larger than the other.

“That indicates neurological damage,” Bernadette Milbury, a clinical instructor, said.

Milbury explained that the child simulator does more than train students on how to handle the case medically; it also incorporates communication training.

“We have actors with scripts who role play as the child’s parents,” Milbury said. Sometimes the actors are told to be hysterical, other times they’re asked to act as if they’re in shock. “We videotape the scenarios and then watch them back with the students so they can see what they did or didn’t do.”

To the right of the child simulator, a group of nursing students in navy scrubs surround a bed, watching one of their peers insert a laryngoscope into the simulator’s mouth.

“Keep an eye on the monitor,” Nick Sawyer, a student physician, warned. The laryngoscope has a small camera on its end, which allows students to see where they’re probing once inside the mouth. “Right there!”

Moments later, the simulator is intubated and the observing nursing students burst into applause.
As the next nursing student lined up for her chance to intubate, Sawyer nodded and smiled. “Pretty interesting, huh?”