Joel is a simulated child who spends his days and nights on the campus of State College of Florida-Lakewood Ranch in the school’s $12.2 million Medical Technology Simulation Center.
Joel is one of about a dozen simulated humans in the Center who are used to help student nurses learn how to better care for real patients. He can blink his eyes and talk. He can be programmed to say, “I want my mom.” Also he says, “My leg really hurts and I can’t move it.”
On Monday, the opening day of Health Innovation Week in Manatee and Sarasota counties, SCF-Lakewood Ranch, 7131 Professional Parkway E., held an open house at the “Sim Center” and invited members of the public to meet Joel and his artificial friends.
Elizabeth Harper, 26, of Bradenton, came to the open house because she wants to be a nurse practitioneer, wanted to see what the Sim Center would be like and what the simulated humans were all about.
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Harper was welcomed by Daisy Vulovich, dean of SCF-Lakewood Ranch, Beverly Hindenlang, dean of nursing and health professions at the school, Cathy King, nursing instructor and Jane Smith, who has the unusual title “Sim Wiz” because she knows every detail of the six-year-old Sim Center.
Harper was invited to take Joel’s pulse. She was a little nervous, perhaps because Joel is so life-like.
“It was really cool because I could actually feel his pulse,” Harper said. “I could tell I was in the wrong spot and I moved over.”
For the past four years, SCF-Lakewood Ranch and the nearby Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine have worked together to help both SCF’s nursing students and LECOM’s future doctors learn how to deliver bad news to families in a caring and compassionate way.
They use Joel and the other simulators to do it.
Smith, Hindenlang and Vulovich call it “the Marcus Welby MD effect.” Dr. Welby, played by actor Robert Young, was a caring and compassionate TV doctor from 1969 to 1976 who had a stellar bedside manner.
“One of the things we try to do is develop that bedside manner,” Vulovich said. “You are treating more than just that patient in the bed. You have a whole family scenario going. It’s real. We are dealing with those types of scenarios in the hospital every day.”
LECOM provides actors to represent Joel’s family and students are filmed so their bedside manners can be critiqued.
LECOM second year med students Kevin Shahbazian, Matthew Sanchez and William Waite all participated in having to tell a family on Monday that Joel, whose story Monday was that he had been admitted to the hospital after hurting his left leg playing soccer, had a shadowy object on his MRI that might be a cancerous tumor.
“In school we normally do standardized patient encounters which is great, but actually having the family in there and seeing the end process of a giant patient encounter is remarkable,” Sanchez said. “I really am glad to have this opportunity.”
Health Innovation Week continues Tuesday with an event at LECOM. It’s an open house from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tours of the College of Medicine, School of Pharmacy and School of Dental Medicine are scheduled as well as the Medical Science Academy’s “Human Body Explored” outreach program. The school is located at 5000 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.