The Sims come to life

A Wits medical student disagrees with claims in the media that a simulation unit for medical schools will give their students the edge.

The University of Free State opened its doors to its simulation training unit where simulation dolls are used to teach medical students, The New Age reported this week.

Unit head Dr Mathys Labuschagne proudly showed members of the media how the human patient simulators come alive during a tour of the unit.

Caryn Upton, a 6th year MBBch at Wits, said the simulation dolls don’t give UFS medical school an upper hand over other medical schools.

“In first year you don’t know enough about the human body to work with it. The best experience comes from working with people like we do at Wits. Maybe for universities that don’t have enough hospitals and doctors to work with, these dolls can be useful,” she said.

The simulation dolls known as the “Sim man”, “Sim woman” and “Sim baby” are attached to computers that control and monitor them. The simulation dolls breathe, blink and are able to react to resuscitation and medication administered to them.

Labuschagne explained that the Sims give the students an opportunity to interact with real-life situations in their first year. Previously, medical students would have their first encounter with a human body when they worked on cadavers in their second year.

“The purpose is for students to learn in a safe non-threatening environment to manage emergency situations” he said.

The Sim woman doll will be used for simulating birth, natural as well as a Caesarean procedure.

“When the woman gives birth, she makes noises simulating pain and effort. Water and blood come out,” Labuschagne said.

Baby Sim can be treated in an intensive care unit linked to a monitor and computer, can simulate basic heart and lung functions, and will allow medical students to practice resuscitation, a lumbar puncture and how to insert drips with artificial blood in the veins.

The new system gives lecturers the ability to monitor students via computer in another room and add a level of difficulty by changing the condition of the Sim. When the condition of the Sim deteriorates, the student has to act quickly as they would in a real-life situation. The lecturers then assess the student based on how they handle the situation.

The unit will also be open to give refresher courses to doctors and other health professionals who have already qualified.