New hospital simulator can mimic actual young patient

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG)- Nurses, doctors and even health care students who want to practice on pediatric patients in Cedar Rapids can now turn to a new high-tech helper at Mercy Medical Center. It’s a patient simulator that goes by the name “Pediatric HAL.”

Resident nursing students at Mercy Medical Center practice on "Pediatric Hal." The life-like simulator is described as the most advance simulator available to mimic a five-year-old patient.

The life-sized simulator was developed by Gaumard Scientific Company and two weeks ago the system that costs about $50,000 was delivered to Mercy.

Simulators are the norm in training health care workers to do various medical procedures. But leaders at Mercy say Pediatric HAL is the most advanced unit of its type and, so far, the only one in use right now in Iowa.

The simulated patient’s eyes move to follow nurses and his facial expressions can mimic symptoms of various ailments. An instructor at the controls can trigger verbal responses like “my tummy hurts” and react to what students are doing.

Nursing students can poke him with a needle and watch as he cries tears that look real.

They can also do various procedures and draw fluids that resemble what they’d get from a real patient.

Tiffany Schmitt, a Mercy Nursing Resident student, said the more realistic reactions of the patient simulator give more realistic training.

“HAL just reacts to whatever we do to him and it helps us learn,” she said.

And unlike a real five-year-old, if students make a mistake in running a procedure with Pediatric HAL the instructor will just reset the controls and let students try again.

Tracy Wilson, Mercy Nursing Residency manager, said “it’s just phenomenal how it mimics a five-year-old.”

The Mercy Foundation provided funding for the purchase of the new simulator that will join other simulators, both adults and infants, already in use by the hospital.

It will be used to train health care workers at Mercy first but eventually may be opened to nursing students at other locations around eastern Iowa.