Theatrical Sleight of Hand

I work in a simulation center. A detailed re-creation of a hospital, where healthcare providers practice on sophisticated manikins. You can make a lot of mistakes on a human patient simulator manikin, and learn from them, without jeopardizing the life of a real patient. The simulators have some pretty sophisticated electronics packed into their innards and, as such, they weren’t designed for surgical procedures.

The practice of surgery is just as risky as a medicine and the center I work at has been asked to simulate an open heart surgery.  A bit of a challenge, since there is nothing but PC boards and pneumatic tubes in the simulator’s chest. So it was time to put on the old “maker” thinking cap and figure out a way to re-create the conditions of cardiac surgery within the limitations of the technology we use. The solution is equal parts craftsmanship and theatrical misdirection.


About robertkerner

Educator, registered nurse, attorney, inquisitive mind
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2 Responses to Theatrical Sleight of Hand

  1. Kevin says:

    If you need the head, to make it “realistic”, and you are willign to make a sim man all glued up just for that use, why don’t you just cut the head off the sim manand put the box infront of it, no need for it to be sitting on the chest.
    Also, arnt animal hearts cheaper and more realistic to work on?

    • robertkerner says:

      It’s important to us to have a fully-functioning simulator that can be resuscitated; in other words, manage the airway, give medications and receive appropriate responses. We would lose those functions if we went with just an airway head and the project box. Also cutting the head off permanently destroys a $37,000 simulator!

      Animal hearts may be inexpensive (I don’t know) but you need permits to have and work on them in a healthcare facility. Our center is not credentialed to have and use animal tissue. And the focus of the simulation is not the actual repair of a heart. It’s the ability to manage a complex team while also doing a surgical procedure. We have other methods to validate whether the procedure is done correctly.

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