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Pie filling, sweat & tears

They barf.  They bleed. They turn blue.

Do these sound like your typical mannequins? You won’t find these life-sized creations standing in a store-front window, but rather lying in hospital beds in the School of Nursing at UIndy.

From the time they are freshmen, students in the School of Nursing work with the mannequins, learning how to listen to heart rates and check respiration.

The School owns more than a dozen mannequins that range in price and capabilities.

Screaming mannequins?

That might be the stuff of nightmares for some. But when the computer-enhanced mannequins in UIndy’s School of Nursing have a complaint, they’ll let you know. Maybe loudly.

“We have everything from basic, low-fidelity mannequins, all the way up to our high-fidelity mannequins such as Sim Man and Noelle that are run via computers,” explains nursing instructor Becca Cartledge. “And yes,” she says, “they are mannequins, not dummies. They are much too expensive to be called dummies.”

Sim Man can be intubated and has a chest that rises and falls as he breathes. He also can talk to the students, and a professor who wants to improvise a bit can step outside and talk through Sim Man.

Like Sim Man, Noelle has similar high-tech features, but she also has the ability to give birth.

“She has reservoirs within her body, so we can have her water break, for example,” says Becca. “She has a placenta that can come off in pieces, and our midwifery students can even practice a C-section on her.”

The School also owns mannequins of a baby and a child for pediatric simulations.

“We can have the baby turn blue,” says Becca, “and you can listen to lung sounds to hear problems such as asthma. We also can have it coo constantly or cry constantly.”

Keeping a clear head

Another mannequin has a clear head that teaches students about shaken baby syndrome and shows where brain damage occurs.

“I’d never seen a baby in distress before,” says Nursing student Ali Jaicomo. “It’s very helpful to see it in practice first.”

Most of the students work with the mannequins in guided simulations. The professor will set the stage, making the room and situation as close to a real hospital experience as possible. Then the professor steps aside, letting the students work through the scenario.

“We’re trying to make it as real as possible for them,” Becca says. “These simulations are very serious and very focused. We can get a lot of critical learning out of a short amount of time.”

When students finish the simulation, the professor goes back in and debriefs with them.

“That’s where the learning happens,” she says. “We don’t want students to harm the ‘patient’ and not tell them what they did wrong. We won’t interrupt while the simulation is going on, but we talk about what they did right or wrong when it is finished.”

One of the most serious and complicated simulations gives the students the experience of dealing with a postpartum hemorrhage, or severe bleeding after giving birth.

“It’s one of those things that you might experience once every ten years,” Becca says, “but if you don’t know how to handle it, the patient will die.”

To make the simulation even more real for the students, cherry pie filling is used as blood.

“Students are unlikely to experience an actual postpartum hemorrhage in their clinicals, so when we can make it happen here, we are making sure that our students are better prepared when they graduate and become nurses.

“It’s all about trying to make everything as real as possible.”