Northeastern University always has something or other interesting popping around the campus. For now, a group of labs in the Behrakis Health Sciences Center is wholly filled with fake people. What is it, you might wonder? Well, these ‘fake people’ have been created by the faculty from the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. Called as human patient simulators, they recreate the human experience so that they can be used as a proxy for real-life scenarios.
Jamie Musler is the director of Arnold S. Goldstein Simulation Labs and is very much impressed by these fake people. “They can sweat. They can urinate. They can seize,” said Musler. It is not that surprising that he is impressed, as these simulators can imitate sounds and murmurs of heart and normal or abnormal lungs. Some of them, like the one named SimMom, is even able to imitate women giving birth.
These simulators are a lot helpful for post-graduation students. These students then get the opportunity to put their classroom theories into practice. It is especially useful for students pursuing counselling psychology, pharmaceutical sciences, along with some other related majors.
The entire setting slightly resembles that of a panopticon – with an observation room having access to every lab in the building. The speakers embedded in the ‘fake people’ act as the patients, where the students are role-playing. The simulators are even more useful to study something you can’t study on real humans, such as the effects of an overdose of opioids.
“You can’t get real people to do that,” said Musler, “short of using medications.”
It also helps to showcase human behaviour rather accurately, thus making it more valuable. Musler keenly defines these simulators as, “end-of-life critical decision making”. “It might not be something they have to deal with in their practise or their professional work at all,” he said of the students, “but we feel like the lessons and the conversations we have—based on the fact that we’ve created this emotion for our learners and our students—add value to the experience.”
These scenarios immensely help the students prepare themselves for such scenarios happening in the real world, where they most probably won’t have any sort of control whatsoever. These simulators would actually be putting them to test, in order to measure their ability of effective response to the real-world human behaviour.
“While there are lots of different things to be learned, in our lab we don’t focus so much on technical aspects of healthcare or technical aspects of learning,” said Musler. What they focus more on, is the communication aspect, as it is the only rich factor of experiential education.