Robotic patient helps Bath pharmacy students practice diagnosis
23 February 2010
A robot that can be programmed to have a range of medical
conditions, from heart disease to constipation, is being used by
pharmacy students at the University of Bath to help practise diagnostic
skills and treating patients.
The SimMan 3G, nicknamed 'Simon' by the students, is a life-sized
model that talks, breathes and reacts to medicines in the same way
as a real human (photo below right and video
below). He can be examined for blood pressure, heart and lung
function, and can even be changed into a female.
SimMan is one of a range of patient and other human simulators
produced by Norwegian company Laerdal.
Dr Denise Taylor, Senior Teaching Fellow in Clinical Pharmacy
said: “He’s amazingly life-like. He has a pulse, his pupils
constrict when you shine a light in them and he also reacts to drugs
in a similar way to a real person. If he has a reaction to a
medicine, he might have a seizure, sweat or vomit.
“He’s an amazing resource because he gives students a chance to
practise examination skills, including diagnosis and treatment of
patients, in a safe environment.”
Whilst SimMan 3G is widely used for training doctors in medical
school, the University of Bath is one of the first pharmacy
departments to own one. It is part of a new state-of-the-art teaching suite opened
recently by Vice-Chancellor Professor Glynis Breakwell.
From left: Dr Denise Taylor (Senior Teaching Fellow in Clinical
Pharmacy) with students Gareth Kitson, Joe Tooley and Sophie McGlen.
(credit: Nic Delves-Broughton)
The suite is set up like a real pharmacy, with a dispensary and
patient consulting rooms. Each student is assigned a set of
fictitious patients, each with medication records that the student
can use to decide which medicines may be prescribed and dispensed
The new laboratory also includes six pharmacy consultation rooms,
where students are filmed whilst role-playing encounters with
patients, played by teaching staff or professional actors. This
gives students valuable feedback as to how well they communicate
Head of Pharmacy Practice Professor Marjorie Weiss said: “The
role of the pharmacist is changing significantly. They are increasingly offering more patient-facing services such
as giving advice to patients about appropriate medicine use, minor
illnesses and healthy lifestyles. Some pharmacists, with additional
training, can also prescribe medicines.
“This calls on the pharmacist’s clinical and communication skills
— they might have to explain a medicine-taking routine to a patient,
offer advice on quitting smoking, check an individual’s cholesterol
level or identify underlying issues, such as depression.”
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Jane Millar, added:
“Pharmacy practice has made great advances over recent years, and so
this new pharmacy practice suite will ensure that University of Bath
pharmacists have the best possible vocational education to equip
them to meet the needs of their profession.”
The laboratory was set up with funding from the Wolfson
Foundation and the University’s Alumni Fund.