They talk, move, blink and moan, doing their best to inform their caregivers exactly what's going on with their bodies. While they are quite lifelike, they aren't human.
They live in a new lab at Texarkana College—patient simulators, a form of cutting-edge technology being used in nursing programs around the world to give students hands-on patient experience.
TC held an open house Friday to showcase the 10 simulators in their new simulation lab, built and equipped through a $304,006 Jobs and Education for Texans grant from Texas Workforce Commission.
Ruth Hughs, TWC commissioner representing employers, presented the check to TC officials Friday. She said the "Texas miracle" of workforce success involves a simple formula.
"We focus on low taxes, reasonable regulations for starting and growing a business," she said. "One thing that we're just proud of is we really focus in on our quality talent pipeline, so employers do have that skilled workforce they need and that individual will have an opportunity to pursue a career in the best state in the country.
This kind of training equipment is going to further that mission and really help people get trained in the highest technology. In our ever-changing world, it's helpful to have these kinds of resources where we can make sure they have the best equipment."
The JET grants provide equipment for emerging technologies or high-demand occupations, such as nursing. Although TC already had two simulators, Courtney Shoalmire, dean of health sciences, said they were beginning to wear out.
"They're only good for so long," she said. "As technology advances, we need to keep up with what's out there so our students have the best learning opportunities that we can afford them. Without monies like this from the Texas Workforce Commission, we wouldn't have what we have today."
The simulators have many functions, some of which allow students to hear heart, lung and bowel sounds. Another is a simulator of an older man with heart problems, plus there are two simulators of young children.
The rock star in the lab is Sim Mom, a simulator which gives birth, complete with amniotic fluid, a placenta and umbilical cord attached to a baby simulator. It cost more than $60,000 Shoalmire said, adding that it will be a huge benefit to the nursing students.
"With the pregnancy simulator, we can program her to have an easy, no-problem childbirth scenario or one with complications to the delivery," she said. "Most students don't have the opportunity to see a live birth. We can do it in the sim lab, and they'll know what to expect."
Instructors program the simulators with specific issues, and the students work to figure those out. Their actions will also be recorded with a new $27,000 audio/visual system purchased through the grant.
"We can record simulation scenarios as students go through the motions," Shoalmire said. "Then in debriefing, we replay those videos and let the students and instructor talk about where they went wrong, the things they did right and where they could have improved the situation. That is very important that we're able to watch it more than once, not just when they're going through the motions."
Hughs said that by 2022, an estimated 3.4 million nurses will be needed in the United States.
"Today's nurse is required to care for patients using the most modern technical equipment, and this grant is going to help to meet those workforce needs and provide the highest-quality nurses that possess the absolute best work experience," she said. "By providing these grants to these schools, we are really focusing in on having that future workforce meet that employer demand for skilled workers and keep our Texas businesses competitive and our economy strong. Texarkana College has been leading the way in providing affordable education to this community since 1927, and all of your work is really recognized."
TC President James Henry Russell said they are known for their nursing program and that getting a nursing degree is a game-changer not only for the students, but for the area.
"It changes the whole community," he said. "What I love about the JET grant so much is it goes into something you can actually see and touch and know makes a difference in our program."
For more information on the nursing programs at TC, go to texarkanacollege.edu.