The Perfect Patients

Med students get hands-on experience with school’s high-tech sim lab


The patients on the second floor of Campbell University’s Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences have it rough — irregular heart beats, pneumonia, bowel problems, stroke symptoms and much, much more.

In other words, they’re perfect. And they’re a big reasons so many students have applied to Campbell’s new School of Osteopathic Medicine and its physician assistant program.

In October, the 160-member medical school charter class got its first hands-on look at Campbell’s standardized patient and high-fidelity simulation center, a six-room laboratory featuring robotic patients who breath, blink, talk, bleed, give birth and display symptoms of hundreds of illnesses or conditions, which are controlled by the school’s professors and highly trained staff. The labs — which were made possible by two $2 million grants in 2012 from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the Golden Leaf Foundation — resemble your typical operating rooms, emergency rooms, ICUs and birthing suites. And some of the new teaching hardware and software is the first of its kind in North Carolina, according to Bob Schmid, Campbell’s SIM lab technical director.

“Since simulation is becoming a standard in medical education, many schools in the state have similar simulation systems. However, Campbell has some distinct advantages,” Schmid said. “Our facility was designed and built to be a SIM center and not a retrofit of an existing structure. That means Campbell’s academic curriculum is being designed to integrate simulated training experiences from the beginning.”

The “stars” of the lab are the robots, or Human Patient Simulators. SimMan 3G and SimMan Ess. breathe, bleed, react to drugs, can go into cardiac arrest and can perform a number of other functions to simulate real-life symptoms or a real-life emergency. During their second week of classes in the labs in October, students were using their stethoscopes to listen for murmurs and other changes in SimMan’s heart beat, which was being controlled in the next room by Dr. Michael Soderling, Campbell’s director of medical missions and global health.

First-year med student Flint Ray of Utah chose Campbell over five other medical schools, and a big sell for him was the facilities and the second-floor simulation lab. “It’s just the best way to learn. You can make mistakes here and learn from those mistakes,” he said.

His partner that day and another Utah native, Blake Taylor, also said the labs were a deciding factor for him to choose Campbell.

“It’s as close to lifelike as you can get,” he said. “It really is state of the art equipment. Just about anything you might come across as a physician, these [patient simulators] can do.”

As with all lectures in the med school, the students’ lab experiences are captured on video and made available for the students to evaluate themselves and their classmates.

“The video recording provides clarity for the student to make an introspective assessment of interactions,” Schmid said. “The patient evaluation helps the student appreciate how their clinical skills are perceived, and the faculty feedback highlights student strengths, insights and areas for improvement.”

This project received support from The Golden LEAF Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.