Virtual patients sharpen skills for Drexel nurse practitioner students

Sunday, April 09, 2017 04:17PM
Virtual patients sharpen skills for Drexel nurse practitioner students. Matt O'Donnell reports during Action News at 9 a.m. on April 9.


CENTER CITY - It's the medical training version of the old joke about getting to Carnegie Hall - "practice, practice, practice."

Technology has changed the way we learn on every level of schooling.

At Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions in Philadelphia, a new system is giving some medical pros in-training practical experience, through a unique collection of 'patients.'

And it enables them to practice hundreds of cases, above and beyond what any student could see in a clinic.

You can clearly hear a human cough as you walk near Kevin Nusspickel, a student in the Nurse Practitioner program.

But it was not coming from Nusspickel.

It was from the i-Human program he uses in his training.

i-Human is the latest twist on a patient simulator.

Instead of the animated mannequins that have been the mainstay of medical training for decades, Drexel is using computer-generated patients from a cloud-based system.

"i-Human brings the textbook to life for our students," says professor Jennifer Olszewski.

Each week, they're assigned one of 350 patient cases.

They do a head-to-toe examination, just like they would on a real person.

They listen to the heart.

"Not only are you listening to the heart tones, but you're learning what you're listening to," says Nusspickel.

They assess breathing, check pulses, examine the throat, and...

"You can go into the eyes," he adds.

"This is the one I found most helpful. You can look at what you would see with an ophthalmoscope, when you look inside the eyes," he notes.

Students can also ask the patient questions, order tests, and read the results.

Plus, they can study anywhere, anytime, with professors reviewing their work and giving them feedback.

"It lets them make mistakes on a computer screen, before they hit real patients, and they get to learn from that," says Olzsewski.

i-Human's developers can add new cases, to respond to changing needs in the real patient world.

Last year, a zika virus case was added, so practitioners could learn to recognize and treat the emerging health threat.

Nusspickel thinks it's already made him better in his current job as a registered nurse.

"I've become more systematic in my approach, and I definitely feel more thorough," he notes.

One graduate told us he really learned how to ask the right questions, to get useful information from his patients.

Several other nursing schools are also using i-Human, which was developed by i-Human Patients, Inc., on Sunnyvale, California.

Drexel's program reaches its students in 31 states.
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