Pie filling, sweat & tears


They talk. They turn blue. They hemorrhage. And they scream. These high-tech mannequins mimic human symptoms to prepare nurses.

You won’t find these mannequins standing in a store-front window. Instead, they’re getting the finest of care as they lie in hospital beds in the UIndy School of Nursing.

Screaming mannequins might be the stuff of nightmares for some. But from the time students enter the University’s School of Nursing, they work with realistic mannequins, learning how to listen to heart rates, check respiration, and much more.

“We have everything from basic, low-fidelity mannequins all the way up to our high-fidelity mannequins, such as Sim Man and Noelle, that are run via computers,” explains nursing instructor Becca Cartledge.

“And yes,” she says, “they are mannequins, not dummies. They are much too expensive to be called dummies.”

The purchase of many of UIndy’s dozen or so mannequins was made possible thanks to a grant from the Fairbanks Foundation.

“Having the grant and the research opportunities has been really cool and an incredible benefit,” says Cartledge.

Realistic, baby

Sim Man can be intubated. His chest rises and falls as he breathes, and he can talk to the students. (A professor can step outside to voice Sim Man realistically.)

Noelle has high-tech features similar to Sim Man’s, but she also has the ability to give birth.

“She has reservoirs within her body, so we can have her water break, for example,” Cartledge says. “She has a placenta that can come off in pieces, and our midwifery students can even practice a C-section on her.” (Pie filling helps set the scene, too—but more on that in a moment.)

The School also owns mannequins of a baby and a child for conducting pediatric simulations.

“We can have the baby turn blue,” says Cartledge, “and you can listen to lung sounds to hear problems such as asthma. We also can have it coo constantly or cry constantly.”

Keeping a clear head

Another mannequin has a clear head that teaches students about shaken baby syndrome and shows where brain damage occurs.

“I’d never seen a baby in distress before,” says Ali Jaicomo, an ASN student. “It’s very helpful to see it in practice first.”

Most of the students work with the mannequins in guided simulation experiences. The professor will set the stage, making the room and situation
as close to a real hospital experience as possible. Then the professor steps aside, letting the students work through the scenario.

“We’re trying to make it as real as possible for them,” says Cartledge. “These simulations are very serious and very focused. We can get a lot of critical learning out of a short amount of time.”

When students finish the simulation, the professor goes back in and debriefs with them.

“That’s where the learning happens,” she says. “We don’t want students to harm the patient and then not tell them what they did wrong. We won’t interrupt while the simulation is going on, but we talk about what they did right or wrong when it’s finished.”

One of the most serious and complicated simulations gives the students the experience of dealing with a postpartum hemorrhage, or severe bleeding after giving birth.

From rare to routine

“It’s one of those things that you might experience once every ten years, but if you don’t know how to handle it, the patient will die,” Cartledge says.

To make the simulation even more realistic for the students, cherry pie filling is used as blood.

“Students are unlikely to experience an actual postpartum hemorrhage in their clinicals, so when we can make it happen here, we are making sure that our students are better prepared when they graduate and become nurses.

“It’s all about trying to make everything as real as possible.”

Contact Becca Cartledge at (317) 788-3503 or rcartledge@uindy.edu.