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Norristown Students Learn Life-Saving Skills Using 'Smart Dummies'

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Smart Dummies, designed to react to medical situations, help professionals hone their skills.

On Monday, high school students got some hands-on experience in the Simulation Center at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. The trip is part of the Healthy Newsworks program, which teaches students about journalism and gives them tools to pursue their passions.

Journalism students from East Norriton Middle School in Norristown got up close and personal with a dummy called SimMan. The life-like robot breathes, blinks, sweats, talks, and even drools depending on the medical situation educators enter into the program. The technology has a pulse, as well as cardiac rhythms, challenging the student to identify when to shock the heart to keep the simulator "alive."

"The students really were interested in trying to learn how to help fix him and what was wrong with him. Putting on the scrubs and the gloves, and really getting in and getting dirty," said Victoria Strickland, an East Norriton Middle School teacher.

Guided by Charles Bortle, who runs the Sim Center, students learned what to look for. Tears and groans from SimMan identify pain. If the simulator begins to sweat and turn blue, he might be in cardiac arrest.  The learning experience was designed to show kids what medical professionals can do to save lives in an emergency, and to inspire them to keep learning.

"There's no doubt about it, medical education can be very challenging. But we have a lot of people that never take on that challenge because they don't understand what it is," explained Bortle.

After only a few hours in the simulated hospital room, shocking SimMan back to life and scoping simulated airways, the experience seemed to leave a lasting impression on the students in attendance.

"It's a really unique experience. I'm going out of my comfort zone and looking at something that I haven't experienced before. I would like to pursue being a doctor as a career when I grow up," said Dean Millard, an 8th Grader from East Norriton Middle School.

After the experience, students were challenged to interview the educators and write a story about the program at Einstein. The Simulation Center is a training ground for doctors and nurses to learn about patient care.

To learn more about the center, head to Einstein Medical Center's website.

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