Medical mannequins allows med students to practice their skills

There was a time when learning the practice of medicine required a student to work with live patients. Nowadays, a medical mannequin will allow students to practice the skills they learn.

A medical mannequin has many of the same qualities as real people, but are not real.

One of the mannequin, named "Patricia" is found at the Center for Simulation and Innovation at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix.

On the day we met Patricia, she "had" a heart attack.

Students and faculty on the other side of a window looking out at Patricia provide her with a voice, and control her behaviors via computer, even how often she blinks her eyes.

"Are you feeling sweaty now?" asked one person.

"Yeah, I am" Patricia responded.

The medical mannequin was made in Norway, which accounts for Patricia's fair complexion. Other mannequins come in different skin tones, to represent the full range of patients. Inside all of them is sophisticated technology. They almost look bionic.

"She can blink, sweat, when we check pupils, they dilate and constrict. She can throw up on us, tongue swollen prevent us from airway drop her lungs. Collapsed lung, she can develop fluid around her heart and all signs and symptoms students will need to learn how to treat and manage," said Dr. Teresa Wu with the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.

Wu said high-tech mannequins are a lot better than the way she learned her skills, during her time in medical school.

"Prior to the advent of simulation technology, when I was training, we had to practice on live patients," said Wu. "So, the first time I did a central venous accessm I put a large needle into someone's neck, and that was on a live patient. Talk about pressure! So we wanted to find a better way"

With Patricia, medical students can use her to master a couple of things: the base of medicine, and the muscle memory skill to do the procedures they need to do in real life.

"The first time I tried to intubate Patricia, I couldn't get the tube in," said Katie Hawk. "Took three or four tries, but with help of faculty, the next three tries I got it each time."

"Patricia and these models help us cultivate excellent muscle memory, so we can practice in no-risk environment, and we can keep trying until we get it, and we build perfect muscle memory for all the skills we will need in a clinical setting," said Nathan Goff

The mannequins are useful, but they don't come cheap. Each cost between $20,000 to $180,000. Patricia is one of nine medical mannequins at the facility. There are also seven synthetic cadavers.