Actors help nursing students practice skills

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Twenty medical residents and interns spent a recent afternoon on the Moon campus of Robert Morris University, practicing their skills on "smart" mannequins and on actors.

The physicians from Heritage Valley Health System worked with university undergraduate and graduate nursing students to train for handling "code" situations -- when hospitalized patients suffer cardiac arrest. The students also learned how to diagnose irregular heart rhythms and other heart conditions.

The training on Oct. 26 was part of the university's "standardized patient program" which includes actors portraying patients.

Often those actors are university theater students. But in the latest exercise, older adult actors from the community were used because older "patients" were needed to portray symptoms of heart diseases that generally affect that age range.

While the actors exhibited chest pains and other symptoms, a behaviorist from Heritage Valley watched from another room, evaluating how the physicians and student nurses communicated with each other and with patients.

The idea is to reduce medical errors that result from miscommunication, which accounts for approximately 66 percent of medical mistakes, according to a news release from the university.

A "simulation mannequin" named Harvey is used to display symptoms of an irregular heartbeat. Harvey is part of the Regional Research and Innovation in Simulation Education Center at Robert Morris.


Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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