Human dummy to teach medics

A new way to teach medical students will be demonstrated for the first time at Bristol University on 21 July 2005, during a joint meeting of the Physiological Society and the Federation of European Physiological Societies.

The new Human Patient Simulators will allow the practical teaching of physiology to be based on realistic, computer-controlled 'manikins'. The manikins can be programmed to simulate abnormal body function, disease processes, and the effects of drugs. Teaching with the manikins will be integrated into existing physiology practical teaching in which students investigate their own (normal) body functions.

Following the award of funding worth £4.5 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), matched by equivalent funds from the University, a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) is being established in Bristol University's School of Medical Sciences.

Dr Judy Harris, the CETL Co-Director at Bristol University, says of the new teaching innovation: "Until now, human-like simulators have been used almost exclusively for teaching in a clinical context. We now aim to extend this by using simulators to teach students about the underlying processes of the human body. Now students in the early years of their degrees will gain far greater insights into how the body works in health and disease."

She added: "There is a limit to what students can learn about by running tests on each other. Now the new generation will be able to learn about complex physiological disorders including specific disease states, such as high blood pressure and asthma, hemorrhage and how ageing and exercise affect the body."

Demonstrations of the manikins suffering heart arrhythmias and shock will be available for viewing by the press during the Physiological Society's meeting on 21 July.

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