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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2005, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Learning from the perfect patient
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Dr Judy Harris with physiology student Anthony Campbell
The manikin has realistic responses
Stan D. Ardman is a model patient.

Even the newest medical student can practise on him and study his array of symptoms and illnesses.

Unfortunately, Stan isn't human but he is the next best thing - a hi-tech manikin known as a human patient simulator.

He is so versatile he can be programmed to be any age and have a whole range of symptoms.

One day he can be healthy and fit, the next day he can be dying. He is so cleverly designed that his whole body is tuned to replicate the patterns of the disease and that makes him an ideal model for students to study.

Realistic

Not only is he life-sized, Stan, named after 'standard man', is also extremely life-like.

He breathes and has pulse points, which vary according to how ill or well he is. Even his pupils react to light.

He is also attached to a catheter so students can pump him full of drugs and watch the effect this has on his body and how he fights illness.

You can't give students drugs and you can't do invasive treatments, but you can with the manikin
Dr Judy Harris

Teaching staff at Bristol University where Stan, and another manikin, are based, say they are an important tool in teaching the effects of physiology.

Dr Judy Harris, deputy head of the department of physiology, stressed that the mannikins can be used from year one through to final year students.

They are controlled by a computer so the conditions affecting Stan can become more advanced as students progress through their degree programme.

Dr Harris said that before the arrival of Stan, first-year-students had been very limited in the sort of tests they could carry out.

"It helps particularly the students who are just beginning their medical careers.

"In the past they learnt a lot of the practical stuff by testing it on themselves, taking pulses, cardiac monitoring and collecting urine samples.

It will be really useful in helping me to learn what the human body is like
Annabele Simms

"But there is a limit as to what you can do, as they are healthy individuals.

"You can't give students drugs and you can't do invasive treatments, but you can with the manikin."

Stan, on the other hand, can take anything that is thrown at him.

One day he might be programmed to be a 60-year-old man who has smoked all his life and has respiratory problems, the next day he could have heart problems.

Dr Judy Harris and Dr Rich Helyer, a lecturer in Physiology with Stan
The manikin is life-sized

"Now the new generation will be able to learn about complex physiological disorders including specific disease states, such as high blood pressure and asthma, haemorrhage and how ageing and exercise affect the body," said Dr Harris.

"You can give them simulated drugs through a catheter and there is a supply of drugs with syringes and bar codes."

She said the life-size manikins would teach students about the underlying physiology of the human body and how it works in both health and disease.

Tool

Annabele Simms, a third-year undergraduate medical student, said Stan was an exciting learning tool and one she was looking forward to working with next term.

"I think the main benefit is that you can do things to him that you can not do on yourselves. You can give him drugs and feel his pulse and you can even simulate him having asthma.

"You can learn a lot more this way. It would have been really good to have had this in my first year.

"But I will still be using it and it will be really useful in helping me to learn what the human body is like."




SEE ALSO:
Smart idea for brain surgeons
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Virtual heart aids doctors
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