Beyond the Burg: Medical school uses robots as teaching tools

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September 15, 2009

1:15 AM

With the help of computerized robotic mannequins, students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine are getting hands-on experience delivering babies.

The robots, Noelle and her “baby” Hal, were purchased by Arizona’s University Medical Center through a $40,000 grant from Guamard Scientific, a Miami-based medical equipment manufacturer.

To create the most life-like representations, the robots are programmed to say over 20 words and phrases including, “it really hurts now” and “the baby is coming.”

“It makes me laugh when Noelle says, ‘don’t touch me!’ And it’s so lifelike that the med students look at each other and back away,” Charge Nurse at UMC Margie Neish said to Fox News.

Both robots can be used to simulate labor and delivery, as well as the many complications that can occur during those processes. Cesarean sections, hemorrhaging and umbilical cord strangulation are a few of the situations that medical students can simulate with the robots.

The use of robots is increasing at many medical schools across the country.

“People are in the simulation lab all the time — up to 20 medical students, plus numerous residents a week, [and] at least 3,000 individuals in the past year for more than 4,000 training hours,” Chief of Technical and Laboratory Services at UMC David Biffar said to Fox News.

The robots allow medical students to gain familiarity with critical injuries and situations before seeing them in the field.

The trauma robots bleed, have eyes that blink and dilate, and are capable of having anesthesia and breathing tubes inserted.

“Trauma training day is the best,” Biffar said to Fox News. “There’s lots of blood then. It gets all over the students.”

By working with the robots, UMC students are able to obtain firsthand experience they could not receive from reading a medical textbook.

In situations in which time is critical, like childbirth, working with robots like Noelle prepares medical students for their first emergency experiences.

“[It’s as] close to a real [situation] as you’re going to get with any kind of a simulator,” Neish said to Fox News.

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