December 07, 2022
Hands-On Training at the Hospital
Fifteen students experienced two hours of hands-on medical training at a trip to UConn Health on Monday of the Thanksgiving break organized by Health Ambassador Club members Jenna and Jack Kannan (with the help of their mother and pulmonologist Dr.Kannan). Although the trip involved plenty of paperwork, an arduous process for the Kannan twins, and a health screening of the students before entering the facility and simulation center, the trip served as an excellent test drive for students considering a career in the health sciences.
Upper School science teacher Dr. Alexa Tznova, who accompanied the students on the trip, said the impetus of the idea was to allow students to experience the real workings of what medicine is actually like. “Let’s get them to a place where doctors train and see all of these things they could not see otherwise,” she said.
The club has evolved over several years, initially offering a tour of the medical center. “One of the motives is for the trip to be peer-based learning, student-led, and experiential,” Jenna Kanaan said. “You can learn way more up close and personal rather than in a lecture-based style. A lot of the students appreciated it, especially people who are interested in a pre-med program or even if they don’t know what they want to do, they think that pre-med may interest them.”
Tznova said the doctors compared this type of training to pilots who receive virtual reality simulated training. “Medicine has finally caught up,” Tznova said. She said that if a patient came into the ER exhibiting various symptoms in a medical emergency, it was unrealistic to think that a doctor would page the interns to see the case. Now they can experience it virtually.
With advanced technology, medical training can simulate various health conditions and scenarios, which allows doctors in training to test their assumptions and practice their decision-making ability. For instance, the patient robot, “Tim,” connected to various monitors in a mock hospital room, can be preprogrammed with ailments the trainee needs to diagnose. (For instance, the robot can sweat or foam at the mouth.) The students saw “Tim’s” heart rate goes up and listened to the sounds from the chest. “The medical students must figure out the condition and treat it,” Tznova said. “They make the calls when the vitals of the robot change and figure it out.”
Using high-fidelity graphics in a three-dimensional touch screen (an anatomage table) is another level of realism that can ‘fool’ doctors during training. The UConn facility had two large tables side by side: one with a traditional black and white CT scan and another, the anatomage table, with cross sections of the entire body where one can view all the organs. When you touched the screen for the liver, the organ would display, and you could view and rotate the organ from different vantage points, top, bottom, or side, and see its relationship and proximity to other organs as well as the connecting blood vessels. In that way, the intern could see the fullness of the organ and check it against the CT scan in one dimension at the next table. The touch screen can also be programmed to display what a diseased organ would look like.
“It was very cool,” Jenna Kannan said. “It had a feature where you could scalpel it, look inside and see all the components and pull apart each different layer. These are real-life images that they have taken from cadavers.”
More hands-on applications included intubating a mannequin, Jenna Kanaan’s favorite part of the visit. “When you’re intubating, you don’t want to pull too far back, or you could crack a tooth. The model runs you through how much pressure you need to apply, what direction to pull it in, so you don’t hit the tooth.” Kannan felt she was relatively successful at intubating and appreciated the guided directions and advice from the instructor.”
The group also performed laparoscopic surgery, where a camera was placed down the mannequin’s throat and then maneuvered through the lungs. The students also ran through another surgery where they had to practice with two tongs and move jelly-like pieces onto prongs so the students could witness just how precise they needed to be.
“It blew me out of the water,” Jenna Kannan said of the visit. “I did not expect the number of hands-on run-throughs we did. I was very impressed with the instructors and how patient, detailed, and accommodating they were. The biggest takeaway was that the experience made me more excited to enter this field and gave me a glimpse into what this really is.”
With the technological replication of disorders, organs, and hands-on “surgery,” doctors can become better trained and witness situations they may encounter in the real world. Overall, these technologies can improve techniques before a doctor nears a patient. What a fantastic foray into the world of medicine for KO’s budding health professionals!