Meet patient Isaac Morris who is complaining of shortness of breath and a fast pulse. College of Medicine assistant professor Dr. David Harris asks his undergraduate physiology students to step closer to assess the patient’s condition because Mr. Morris is showing all the signs of an asthma attack.
Isaac Morris is one of the mannequin “patients” in the College of Medicine’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Lab, who can speak, perspire and has a heartbeat. And working with the simulated patient is part of a special class the college is offering this summer to let undergraduate physiology students experience patient diagnosis.
“It’s fantastic that the (mannequin’s) program can simulate life systems in a controlled environment,” said Scottie Jordan, a junior at the college’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. “This bridges the text book and real life, and is excellent training for meeting patients in real life.”
Like most of her classmates, Jordan is planning on a medical career and the three-hour simulation program allows her to get a glimpse of what medical school entails. It’s the first time at the medical school for many of the undergraduates who have never seen simulation mannequins before or had to decipher symptoms.
Dr. Harris came up with the collaboration with Dr. Jack Cheng, associate professor at the Burnett school. “Our aim is to expose biomedical students to their career choices, to see what it’s like being a doctor and apply basic physiology to clinical medicine,” said Dr. Harris.
During the class Dr. Harris and Dr. Christine Bellew, associate professor of pediatrics, explain the science and analyze symptoms to teach the students to not just look at the patient’s current condition, but also to look for trends such as high blood pressure and breathing rates to assess whether the patient is improving or getting worse.
As computers controlled the mannequin’s asthma symptoms, the students listened to the heart with stethoscopes, and the doctors explained the difference between normal and labored breathing, which can vary depending on the health and age of the patient.
The collaborative teaching keeps the students engaged and the hands-on approach gives them real examples to learn from, said Dr. Cheng. He believes that his students need to know how to apply science to medicine and plans on more teaching opportunities that bring the three faculty members together at the Burnett school’s location on the main UCF campus and at the Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona.