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Human-simulating medical robot finds home in UHV nursing program

By JR Ortega
March 31, 2010 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated March 31, 2010 at 11:01 p.m.

UHV nursing student Stephanie Valdez, like most people, finds the experience of interacting with SimMan a unique lesson. The human simulator, named James Corrigan, was recently acquired by the University of Houston and is in use by nursing students at UHV. Top: The latest generation software and hardware, developed for the military, is used in the medical field. Real-time displays of vital signs plus options to simulate interactive human behavior are run on a notebook-style laptop. See video online at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

James Corrigan is 72, at home receiving hospice care and he's dying of lung cancer.

The good thing about Corrigan is that with a quick reboot, he's all better.

Last week, the University of Houston-Victoria unveiled the SimMan 3G, the university's first human-simulating medical robot.

"We can have any type of situation happen," said Jere Hammer, a nursing professor at UHV. "It's as close as you can get to real."

The robot can be programmed to copy any symptom a nursing student might see in a real human in a real situation.

The human robot can have anything from indigestion to a heart attack.

Students can also draw blood, monitor vital signs and give it virtual medication to treat the simulated symptoms.

Stephanie Valdez, a senior of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at UHV, had never used a simulation, she said.

Valdez graduated from Victoria College with her associate's degree and has been a nurse in the field for three years.

"It was different," she said about her first experience with the technology.

The simulation is almost like dealing with a real patient and can be a great educational tool for students, she said.

"It can do things that a normal person would do," Valdez said. "But if there's a symptom or something like a heart sound you don't normally get to hear in your job or in a clinical setting, it can be simulated here. Which is really neat."

The SimMan 3G cost just more than $60,000 and was part of a $205,000 grant awarded to the university through the M.G. and Lillie Johnson Foundation.

Corrigan won't be the robot's name forever, Hammer said.

She hopes to have a vote and see what name the school wants to name him, she said.

For now, he'll be there to help present and future nursing classes at the soon-to-be four-year university.

"Everything we do in nursing I think is heroic," Hammer said. "It's about caring and balancing that caring with technology."

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