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Alumni Gift 'SimMan®' Creates Realistic Emergencies

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 11:01am

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department Chair Mark Wong, DDS (left) and Hinds Academy President W.R. "Bill" Jordan, DDS, display SimMan®, centerpiece of a state-of-the-art simulation suite largely funded by the Academy. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department Chair Mark Wong, DDS (left) and Hinds Academy President W.R. "Bill" Jordan, DDS, display SimMan®, a centerpiece of UTSD's state-of-the-art simulation suite, largely funded by the Hinds Academy. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

A high-fidelity simulation mannequin that can speak, cough and even snore is part of The University of Texas School of Dentistry’s new, state-of-the-art facility for testing dental students and oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) residents by simulating real-life medical emergencies.

Devices inside SimMan® and the accompanying equipment can be programmed to exhibit various vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and respirations. The mannequin can complain of chest pains, make wheezing noises to mimic breathing problems, and can be hooked up to intravenous or breathing tubes.

The simulation suite in the School of Dentistry’s OMS clinic includes a mock patient treatment room, as well as a control-and-observation room behind a one-way mirror. Simulated drills test responses in a way classroom tests cannot, said Mark Wong, DDS, chair of Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

“When a real emergency happens, people get anxious and have to function under pressure. You can’t replicate that in a classroom,” he said.

The total cost of the high-tech dummy and of equipping the suite with cameras and wireless technology totaled $110,000 — mostly funded by The Edward C. Hinds Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the alumni organization for graduates of the School of Dentistry’s OMS program. The organization is named after the department’s first chair, Edward Hinds, DDS, MD, who served from 1948-1983.

For oral surgery residents and practitioners who must administer anesthesia, scenarios will focus on anesthesia-related crises, said Associate Professor Kamal Busaidy, DDS, who oversees simulation training. But the simulation suite can also be used to train dental students and others in emergency life support, such as when a patient has a heart attack during a routine dental procedure, he added.

Although such simulation training is common in medical schools and hospitals, it is rare in dental schools, and UTSD is at the forefront of what could become the new standard in dental education, Busaidy said.    

“Every student needs to practice management of dental emergencies,” Busaidy said. “A real-life situation is an eye-opener for them.”

Even a simulated experience can feel eerily real. For example, Busaidy, sitting in the observation room, asked a student to check the patient’s lymph nodes. The mannequin responded, “That tickles,” and the startled student took a step back, apologizing to the mannequin.

The mannequin is also handy for non-emergency training, such as properly inserting a breathing tube, Busaidy added. A specific scenario can be programmed into the mannequin, or a faculty member can design the scenario on the fly and prompt the mannequin’s reaction based on the student’s responses.

For example, Wong said an oral surgery resident will be told he is performing a molar extraction on a 15-year old boy and to inject local anesthesia. The mannequin will begin making wheezing sounds. Gradually, other signs will point to an emergency – such as the pulse oximeter on the mannequin’s finger indicating too little oxygen in the blood.

At each stage, the student must decide the correct course of action.

Wong said this simulation training also stresses a team approach, with students taking assigned roles. Video and sound recordings allow the faculty supervisor and students to review the drill afterwards.

Practicing oral surgeon and Hinds Academy President William V. “Bill” Jordan, DDS, a 1997 graduate of the School of Dentistry’s OMS program, said simulation drills will help students hone decision-making skills in a high-stakes situation. The new suite also puts UTSD at the cutting edge in training for oral surgeons, he added. 

“As alumni, we’re proud that the department is taking a lead role in what could become new training standards for anesthesia providers in dental settings,” Jordan said.