Game Changer FAU Simulation Center puts students in real life medical scenarios


By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
Patient one complained she couldn’t feel her face and said she had no idea how she ended up in the hospital as she called out frantically for her daughter Lisa.
Dressed in matching purple scrubs, a team of Boynton Beach High School sophomores huddled around their patient and wrote her symptoms on a white board, checked her vitals and discussed what the underlying issue could be with an FAU medical student.
The scenario was one that medical students attending Florida Atlantic University have encountered in the Medical Simulation Center. Now, the medical students are helping high schoolers crack what ailment the life-like mannequin patients could be suffering from.
The mannequins lie in hospital beds hooked up to monitors that spew out information just like a hospital. They blink, breathe and bleed. They have variable blood pressure and heart rates that replicate the human response to medical scenarios. They can react to treatment, including drugs and ventilation therapy. If incorrect drugs or dosages are administered, the mannequin will respond how a human patient would react.
In this case, the students, who were getting a jumpstart in their future career in the medical realm through the Healthcare Careers Outreach Program, determined the patient suffered from a stroke.
That wasn’t the only patient the students had to take care of. The simulation center has eight rooms that look and operate just like a hospital’s emergency room. The rooms have gurneys, monitors, IV poles, defibrillators, blood pressure cuffs and simulated oxygen ports.
In one room, director of the center Mark Goldstein yelled “code blue!” and summoned students to perform CPR on a patient who had just gone into cardiac arrest.
The first volunteer to perform CPR on the patient was 15-year-old student Sarah Van Roekel. She said her heart began to race the minute she heard Goldstein yelling code blue.
“It’s funny how realistic it was,” she said. “I didn’t know we were going to be doing CPR.”
The program gives students interested in the medical field a chance to experience situations they would encounter. It also aims to break down the barriers the many minorities and economically disadvantaged students face in their academic careers. The program is funded through various grants.
Medical students prepared the entire day, which was spent half in the classroom and half in the patient rooms dealing with a diabetes case, a hypertension/stroke case and cardiac arrest case.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn from medical students,” Tyra Shade, 15, said. “We are learning the same thing that they are. We are just younger.”
Ovini Rodrigo, a second year FAU medical school student, said working with the high schoolers allows her to practice speaking on a less technical level, similar to how she needs to speak to her patients.
As a “student leader” she taught a class to the students on what to do when a patient comes into the hospital. She went over how to take a medical history, what types of questions to ask, what vital signs are and what to check and went over coming up with a possible diagnosis and treatment.
She said programs are hosted in the simulation center and at the anatomy lab about 20 times a year.
“It’s a really awesome program,” she said. “These kids are so smart. They know so much.”