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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Gary Measom, chairman of UVU's nursing department, sits next to iStan, which can be programmed to simulate many symptoms.

OREM — Its heart beats. Its bowels gurgle. It breathes, bleeds, cries and sweats.

But don't be fooled by its fluttering eyelids or the fact that it can talk: It's not human. It's iStan, Utah Valley University's newest human patient simulator.

"iStan is as close to a person as you can get without working with an actual patient," said Troy Nelson, an assistant nursing professor at UVU.

UVU has been using mannequins to help nursing students practice interacting with patients for years. But those simulators, which are tethered to mountains of equipment, don't hold a candle

to iStan.

"This simulator is wireless, which means the instructor can observe from a different room," Nelson said. "The student is alone with the patient, so it's a more realistic situation."

The mannequin, which is manufactured by Medical Education Technologies Inc., can be programmed to simulate symptoms for a vast number of ailments, ranging from the flu to a brain injury.

"You can take off a limb, you can put on sores and burns," Nelson said. "We can mimic just about any medical condition out there using this simulator."

Although there's no substitute for taking care of real people in nursing education, Nelson said human patient simulators make it possible for students to deal with conditions they might never see during an internship at a hospital.

"When students go into a clinical setting, you never know what kind of patient they are going to get," he said. "With a simulator, if we talk about the heart in class, we can guarantee students are going to have a heart condition to deal with that week."

Because of the increasing number of nursing schools along the Wasatch Front, it is getting more difficult for students to find clinical internships, said Gary Measom, chairman of UVU's nursing department. Simulators provide a reliable way to teach medical techniques in a lab setting.

Measom said the department plans to use iStan to teach students how to measure vital signs and practice diagnosis. Instead of inserting IVs into one another, as was once common practice, nursing students can practice drawing blood and giving injections to iStan. When students administer treatment to iStan, the simulator exhibits a physiological response.

"What iStan does is open the door so we can teach more effectively the things students have to learn," Measom said. "This simulator gives students just a little more realistic experience."

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