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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Community - March 2012

We can learn a lot about caring for humans by listening to robots
Innovative training program uses patient simulators to teach basic care

By Peter Tamburro, Boomerang staff

Remember "Rosie the Robot," the mechanical family housekeeper from "The Jetsons"? What if Rosie could do more than just cook, clean and give advice? Already an exceptional caregiver, what if she were tomorrow's teacher? Hang onto your iPad because the future is already here. A new training program called "The Living Laboratory" is teaching nursing students to learn from robot-like patients called high fidelity human patient simulators.

For a nursing student, home-health aide or family caregiver, medical emergencies don't come with explanations or treatments. This can be especially difficult if a patient is unresponsive or can't communicate. In the classroom setting, you can learn how to diagnose and treat sick people on interactive prototypes.

The living laboratory feels like a real home with simulated patients - very much like a real family.The Nursing Institute of West Central Ohio has the most recent innovations in nursing care education and is headquartered on the Wright State University campus in Dayton, Ohio. This creative partnership began over eight years ago as the vision of the Dean of the Wright State University Miami Valley College of Nursing and Health, Patricia A. Martin, RN, Ph.D., when she began gathering national and statewide supporters. Graceworks Lutheran Services donated the two-story house on its Bethany Village campus for emerging technologies in nursing education and patient care research. The project is now locally funded. There are currently plans to build more training centers across the United States, based on this model.

As you walk in the living laboratory, it feels like a real home with simulated patients - very much like a real family. Like real people, they can talk and answer questions. They have heartbeats and body temperatures, and can mimic a host of health problems and symptoms from headaches, nausea, sweating, leg cramps and indigestion to heart attacks. By working with these simulated patients, nursing students gain the experience and confidence to diagnose and deal with serious medical conditions.

Whether you are a professional caregiver, want to become one, or provide assistance for a friend or loved one at home, the possibilities of this type of training are endless. The future is not that far away when you can take a workshop or training in your community to help identify a medical event, like a heart attack or stroke, or learn how to address the various stages of a progressive disease like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's with real-world experience. Imagine how helpful it can be to know what questions to ask and what signs or symptoms to look for to keep your loved one comfortable. In an actual medical event, prior practical experience can help save a life.

It's no secret that as aging Boomers live longer and grow in numbers, so will healthcare costs and the need for services and professionals. If we utilize technology to become better educated and trained in caring for ourselves and others, we can be better caregivers to our family, friends and communities and faithful stewards of our human resources.


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