CONSHOHOCKEN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Simulators are a major part of medical training these days.
They've now moved from medical schools to a home health care agency in Conshohocken, Montgomery County and they're preparing a specialized group of nurses for almost anything.
"How are you feeling today?" says the nurse to the young figure in the bed.
"I don't feel well," he responds.
That young voice belongs to HAL, an advanced pediatric simulator. HAL can be programmed for almost any situation.
But at Lincoln Health Care, the make-believe 5-year-old is training nurses on handling tracheostomies and ventilators.
More and more kids with breathing devices are at home and school, not in hospitals or nursing homes.
With HAL, nurses learn both basic and crisis care - skills which are getting harder to acquire in hospitals.
"We can actually create emergency scenarios, settings, patient-specific, so that nurses are getting that actual hands-on experience here, as close to life-like as possible before they get into the field," said Autumn Lincoln, vice president and co-founder of Lincoln Health Care,
And as ventilator technology evolves, they can re-train on the specific type of device their patient has.
Tiffany Kuenzi's says her son Dillon's trach needs care two or three times a day.
"We clean around the trach, and wash it, dry it, and put the foam dressing around it again," said Tiffany.
The trach, which is essential to Dillon's breathing, also needs frequent suctioning to keep it open.
But Tiffany admits to doing some on-the-job-training with past nurses.
"We've had quite a few nurses who he's their first trach patient, their first change, all of those things," she says.
So, she is thrilled Dillon's nurses now spend a lot of time perfecting their skills with HAL.
"It's as close are you're going to get to working on a real person," she observes.
"It absolutely allows us to take it to another level in home health care," says Jennifer Hayward, Lincoln's director of nursing.
As important as skills are, Lincoln also says training with HAL gives home nurses the confidence to handle the unexpected, which is essential since most work alone.
Child simulator helping train home health care nurses in Conshohocken
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