Monday, December 04, 2006

Patient Stimulator

The Patient Simulator
Today we had a fake patient, or what the medical school prefers to call a "patient simulator." Some UCSF medical students preferto call it a "patient stimulator," because it rolls off the tongue more easily. But it's hard to decide whether we medical students are stimulating the patient, or whether the "patient" is stimulating us. It's probably a reciprocal relationship, like all healthy patient-doctor interactions.
The patient stimulator was an expensive mannequin with real pulse points, breathing action, blinking, and the ability to answer our questions. Pretty neat, if you don't think too hard about the absurdity of the situation. Imagine: seven or so very confused and medically incompetent students dressed in white coats huddled over a mechanical doll. The doll had a little microphone and someone (perhaps the Wizard of Oz hiding behind the breathing machine or blue plastic curtain) would respond to our medical questions and complain about "light-headedness."
Overall, the patient stimulator was a valuable experience, but I feel that we were not properly "primed" about what to expect or how to do certain things. For example, when we decided that the patient needed an echocardiogram (an ultrasound for the heart), the fourth year medical student supervising us said, " do you get an echocardiogram."
We looked at him blankly and said, "You call someone?"

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