Simulator aids pediatrics residents in training

Children's hospital uses $75,000 system in lessons

The 3-month-old boy isn't breathing and has no pulse. In a room at Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center, registered nurse Candy Dorn places defibrillator paddles on either side of his chest and shocks him. Pediatric resident Dr. Nancy Wood, who is running the "code," glances over at the monitor.


"Hold on a second; it looks like we've got a pulse," she says.

But no matter what the MCG team does, the child will not live.

It can't, actually. It's a mannequin.

Having the $75,000 simulator system at the children's hospital, however, allows trainees to gain valuable experience in a variety of situations before they confront them in real life.

It's part of a growing use of simulators in medicine and will become mandatory in coming years, said Dr. Renuka Mehta, the director of the pediatric simulation center.

"People will have to take seriously that this is a code and if you don't perform your CPR the way it is supposed to be you will not pass," she said. "This is the way people are going."

And it will be a way of reaching younger students who are used to being connected to technology, Mehta said.

"The newer students, they don't want to sit down and listen to a PowerPoint presentation," she said. "The teaching has to be interactive."

And while the situation is not real -- Mehta gave them the scenario as the team was gathering around the bed -- just going through the practice the right way will help when the time comes, Wood said. For instance, keeping a calm voice when a patient needs to be revived, she said.

"That's really good for this lab because you have a tendency to run into the room and start shouting, and everybody gets real excited," Wood said. "So if you practice this many times and you can go through it calmly with a low-toned voice, the end result ends up being a little better."

Running the scenario can help personnel know what to do when a number of people show up to help revive a patient, said pediatric resident Dr. Lee Johnson.

"A lot of times, too many people will show up at the beginning and somebody has to kick some people out of the room because we have too much help," he said.

"Too many people, too much talking, too much communication to where you can't really hear exactly" what is being said, pharmacist Kelley Norris said. "It's good to be able to practice that two-way communication."

It also helps prepare the students and residents for the stress of the actual event, Dorn said.

"It's amazing what putting yourself under pressure with a sick kid in front of you will do to you," she said. "All of a sudden you just forget the simplest things."

And even though this child can be turned on and off -- and made to wheeze, have heart problems and other medical ailments -- there is something about it that still gets the heart going, Dorn said.

"Even though we know this is not a real baby, there is still a level of anxiety," she said.