Simulated Med Technology Advances Learning in Navy Medicine

By Valerie A. Kremer, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

WASHINGTON - Navy Medicine is capitalizing on simulation, modeling, and training technologies throughout the country to strengthen critical skills for Navy medical personnel.

“Mannequins, virtual worlds, and gaming involving training are some of the advancements in modeling and training for Navy medical personnel,” said Cmdr. Cindy Ambach, Navy Medicine director for Clinical Modeling and Simulation. “These tools allow the student to increase performance and better evaluate and project future scenarios.”

The tools also assist in tackling the increased demands of a high operational tempo and diverse deployment environments and missions. Through the use of these superior mannequins, improvements in the application of mock injuries, and virtual reality systems like the Wide Area Virtual Environment (WAVE), the Navy is reinforcing its commitment to providing world-class care to its Sailors and Marines.

Although the Navy still uses low and medium fidelity mannequins, or patient simulators, to provide basic clinical learning experiences, truly realistic training is achieved through high fidelity mannequins.

“High fidelity mannequins react like a human,” said Ambach. “They have pupils that dilate, they breathe, bleed, have IV access for practicing medication administration, and make lung and bowel sounds. There is even a high fidelity mannequin that gives birth so students can practice the child-birthing process.”

The use of high fidelity mannequins has had a significant impact in the training process for Navy medical personnel. The mannequins react just like humans ensuring proper technique is learned and administered.

”If a student is not pressing hard enough for chest compression, the mannequin will react to that,” said Ambach.

Advancements in moulaging, or the application of applying mock injuries, have also advanced the training of medical personnel. Moulaging allows the student to see what limbs look like once amputated with visible bones, and see what shrapnel would look like in the body.

“Students are able to get in there and create many scenarios,” said Ms. Sheila Hill, supervisory education and training policy specialist, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. “The mannequins can endure more than a human. It allows the students to create scenarios to anticipate a crisis.”

Through the combined use of mannequins, simulation, and virtual worlds, Navy Medicine has even taken training one step further. WAVE, located at the National Capital Area Medical Simulation Center, is a large-scale simulator designed to train medical teams in battlefield and natural-disaster scenarios. It has three-dimensional images displayed on three vertical screens to immerse viewers in a virtual setting.

“Imagine having your mannequin physically with you, getting fired at,” said Ambach. ”You have to move your mannequin to a safe place to perform resuscitative care. The WAVE even simulates environmental conditions like heat.”

The 8,000-square-foot virtual space allows team members to interact with each other and real equipment, and gives instructors the opportunity to teach and assess teamwork skills. 3D images are displayed on the screens with paired video projectors while users wear lightweight 3D to view the screen.

“In the future, it will be total immersion into the learning environment,” said Ambach. “It will be amazing to see what simulation will look like ten years from now.”