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Ridgewater unveils state-of-the-art mobile sim lab

SimMan, a male manikin stand-in for 3G, which is currently being upgraded, is pictured Thursday during a tour of Ridgwater College's new mobile simulation lab. The state-of-the art lab is equipped with three life-size manikins that through enhanced computer technology allow the manikins to interact with their caregivers to provide on-site training to health care providers throughout the area. The includes an emergency room and a control room/debriefing room. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- The manikins in Ridgewater College's SimLab L1 are ready to bleed, vomit or give birth, all on command.

The three life-size manikins -- a man, a pregnant woman and a baby -- are the stars of the college's mobile simulation training lab, which was unveiled Thursday afternoon on the Willmar campus. The lab will be available to provide on-site training to health care providers throughout the area. It includes an emergency room and a control room/debriefing room.

Equipment in the lab is state-of-the-art, including the manikins.

There's the baby Hal, who can cry, grunt and turn blue. He has interchangeable parts, so he can be a boy or a girl.

There's Noelle, the pregnant manikin, who can give birth 20 different ways and even have a C-section. "When her water breaks, it really breaks," said Ron Flannigan, director of SimLab. And there's the male manikin, 3G, who is currently away getting a technology upgrade. Until he's ready, the manufacturer provided a fellow named SimMan as a stand-in.

With the help of pre-recorded conversations or a microphone in the control room, the manikins can interact with their caregivers, said mobile simulation specialist Jim Bode.

With the right preparation, they'll produce all manner of bodily fluids when the computer system tells them to, adding realism to simulations. The manikins will react to the treatment given, so participants will influence how well the manikins fare during a session.

Flannigan said the simulations are useful for continuing education for health care and emergency professionals and for training students in paramedic and nursing programs.

Sometimes the manikins "die," and the students need to understand what happened and if anything would have changed the outcome, Bode said. "It definitely gets them ready for the real world," he said.

The lab can have other purposes, too. "What a wonderful way to try something new," Flannigan said. "It gives them a chance to evaluate a new piece of equipment."

Flannigan said the Ridgewater staff even used simulations to choose some of the equipment for the lab.

Cleaning the manikins after a session can be "a tedious job," Flannigan said, but the mess is worth it. "It's such an exciting, effective way of learning."

The Ridgewater College Foundation raised $2.5 million for the project lab, which is a semi tractor-trailer combination.

College President Douglas Allen smiled as he stood outside the colorful 46-foot trailer and looked it over. "I'm extremely pleased," he said.

Allen said he was grateful to the foundation's board for its vision and hard work in raising the money to pay for the lab.

The most important aspect of the lab will be the impact it will have on the area's health care community, he said.

"There is training they can't get anywhere else," he said.

The lab already has training sessions scheduled through December, Flannigan said.

The colorful exterior of the trailer -- not paint but a vinyl wrap -- was donated by 3M. The largest images on the side of the trailer are photos of people in the area.

One photo features Willmar Fire Department Capt. Howard Carlson, Willmar Ambulance Director Brad Hanson and Hutchinson Police Officer Theresa Lieder. The other features Ridgewater employee Jolynn Kosek, nursing assistant Emily Flannigan and Dr. Steven Mulder of the Hutchinson Community Hospital.

The idea for the lab grew out of the college's successful nursing simulation training lab. It took about 3½ years to move from concept to having the vehicle ready for operation, Allen said.

"It was frustrating to take that long, but I think we really made better decisions," he added.

At first, the plan was to put the lab in a recreational vehicle, but through the planning process school officials discovered that the tractor-trailer setup was more efficient.

The low bidder for the semi tractor added a green energy package at no charge after learning how the truck would be used.

Classes offered in SimLab will include training and recertification courses in advanced life support, nursing skill competency, occupational Spanish related to health care and pediatric advanced life support.

Courses will run through the college's Customized Training and Continuing Education program.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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