Invited to visit the Sims Lab at the Phoenix Biomedical campus, I think – mannequin designed to simulate human vital signs – things like breath and pulse. I don’t imagine a complete hospital environment – including sounds – High Fidelity Simulation. I can’t know I’ll meet numerous mannequins including smaller trainers.
Briana walks me into an area that’s ready for an OB lab. She refers to the trainers, I assume she is talking about students in training. I see no students. A trainer, I learn, is a tool, equipment and/or technology, shaped like a human body (full or partial) aiding in the teaching/learning process in medical school. Briana pulls out a couple of them and explains their use to me.
We move into another room and come across a full body mannequin on a hospital bed, in what appears like an operating room/lab. Briana apologizes for the mess. Mess? I see sterile and clean. She points to things that are out-of-order. In an emergency situation where seconds matter, equipment and tools are in their place.
I touch the mannequin. I’m relieved he doesn’t feel real, at least not the skin surface. Briana helps me to feel organs and bones.
We head down the hallway to meet Victoria (below), a birthing mannequin. Yes, a mannequin that gives birth. Here is where I get a better sense of what high fidelity simulation means.
Briana explains the mechanisms while I note a 2-way mirror. Medical students learn to respond to a full birthing experience, including sound. As in real-life each birth, and so each simulation, is unique. It all goes smooth or it doesn’t.
We come across placenta sitting on a table (of course we do).
Briana: It is birthed 35-45 minute after baby.
Me: Are there contraction?
Briana mentions placenta brain. The phrase, not necessarily the explanation, brings a visual to my mind.
Me: I understand it’s a part of the secondary endocrine system.
Briana: It carries all the hormones that mom and baby need.
Right at this point I notice Briana is pregnant. We talk about various cultural norms concerning placenta. She explains it is also freeze-dried, ground and encapsulated, so mom (and nursing baby) may continue to benefit from the nutritious placenta for a good while after delivery.
Across the room I see 2 more mannequins – male and female. As we exit, I’m glad to know Victoria isn’t alone.
Briana: Let’s go see the kiddos!
We enter a smaller dark area. Lights come on bright and for a second I feel like I’m backstage at a theater production.
Briana: Victoria’s bellies are hidden back here.
Me: Victoria’s bellies?!
Three fabulous bellies! As I write this I don’t recall if Briana says this or I do. I think she says it and I feel it true – they are fabulous! …and in various stages of pregnancy siting across the narrow table.
I learn about Leopold’s maneuvers.
And then I meet the kiddos… I hold one and as directed I roll it tightly in my hands like it might be while in utero. It is smooshy, flexible and surprisingly heavy. Average weight, Briana notes.
She then opens up the less common vertical C-section belly (below) and calls out the layers. Particularly interested in fascia, it’s the only layer (white) I focus on.
Off to stage right is the plug-in station …
I don’t say this but i think it. Babies, they lighten everything up.
We walk into a few more mock hospital rooms that include infants and young children on gurneys. Briana wipes the eyes of one of the mannequins and cleans the mouth of another. I sober up understanding the elements in these environments are for training students before they meet real people in real events.
Completing the tour, I ask about the student’s emotions and reactions. Yes, these are also part of the learning experience. It’s all about the full practice of medicine.
Briana works at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in the Center for Simulation and Innovation. Her background is in Cardiology and Cardiology Intensive Care.
She heads off to a meeting and I return to my studio.
While I walk across the hall and take the 4 flights of stairs down – again I can’t help but think about being an artist. I especially appreciate the unusual experiences my work brings me. I could not have imagined any of this in all my years of art school.
Thank you Briana. We both have newborns in the planning – mine will be in 2D (probably on canvas) while yours will show up in 3D (real-life). Best wishes!
My artwork – Nothing In Stasis (solo exhibition) is on view through the first week of April.