UTA Magazine
Nursing students do know Jack
Mannequin that simulates human functions provides valuable learning tool

UTA nursing students are learning from a dummy.

The dummy, which is actually quite smart, is officially a patient simulator and does a lot of things a person can do.

Nursing Major with Mannequin
Senior nursing major Rochelle Vaughan listens to the hearbeat of a patient simulator named Jack. The $40,000 mannequin can breathe, blink, cry and bleed.

"These simulators are a virtual patient," said Carolyn Cason, associate dean for research in the School of Nursing. "They provide a great learning tool for our students."

Nursing professors are using the simulator--a $40,000 mannequin nicknamed Jack--this fall to prepare students for real-life medical challenges.

Jack breathes, has a heartbeat and blinks. If he's not treated right, he can cry or bleed.

People who see the simulator for the first time are impressed by the way it assumes these human characteristics. But its most amazing attribute may be how it reacts to drugs.

"One of Jack's greatest features is that he emulates the physiological response of a human," said Roger Woods, simulation coordinator for the School of Nursing. "The parameters are set prior to running a medical scenario, and if students respond with the proper medication, he's fine. If the drug is not correct or the dosage is wrong, he will have a negative physiological reaction."

Nursing faculty vary the scenarios to challenge the students. "We may add an uncommon occurrence, such as cardiac arrest or a major change, just to show the students how to deal with such a situation," Dr. Cason explained.

An emergency care simulator, Jack is one of the smaller versions produced by Sarasota, Fla.-based Medical Education Technologies.

"Jack's body weighs 71 pounds, according to the scale in our lab," Woods said. "Also, he does have an umbilical cord that gives him life and fluids." The cord weighs 4 pounds, and the black box that serves as the power and communication unit weighs 10 pounds, bringing the total weight to 85 pounds.

While Jack carries a $40,000 price tag, more advanced versions can range up to $200,000. The high-end simulators weigh as much as 167 pounds. Students can take a pulse, feed them intravenously, perform tracheotomies and even put them on a ventilator or give them anesthesia.

By the end of the fall semester, UTA will have one of the larger simulators and a pediatric simulator purchased with funding from a federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant and a grant from the Hillcrest Foundation in Dallas.

"Our short-term goal is to have six simulators on campus by the spring or summer of 2005," Cason said. "Eventually, we hope to be able to add space to include many more."

In the near future, the School of Nursing plans to construct a virtual hospital, the Smart Hospital and Health System, to serve as a national demonstration center for education of health care providers and research and development of health care innovations.

You can bet that it will be full of smart dummies. 

— Jim Patterson

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