FORT MYERS, Fla. — Florida Gulf Coast University students learning how to care for COVID patients with simulators that mimic real patients.
After the pandemic, the university purchased two new simulators that didn't allow students to work in clinical settings.
“We can expose them to a lot of other situations, even much more critical situations, and it's a safe environment to do it on the simulator," Robert Hawkes, the Director of Physician Assistant Program, said.
Students have returned to clinical settings, but the simulators are still used to strengthen their knowledge.
"A COVID patient can present differently, especially with all the variants coming out. It prepares us to know what to expect," Sabreen Yousef, an FGCU physician assistant student, said.
Hawkes said the patient simulators also give the students confidence to take to clinical settings.
“If they go into the ICU, they see critical patients they have worked through similar situations, so they’re much more in-depth to be able to step up and adequately treat the patient," he said.
Megan Thilmony, an FGCU physician assistant student, said the simulators allow her to practice.
“If I walked out into the real world and didn't have this practice, I think I'd be a lot more nervous, but because I have this practice, I'm confident that I can go out there and treat COVID patients," she said.
For students like Keisha Poleon, the simulators provide hands-on experience that no textbook could provide.
“We see a different presentation and we have to react to it; it's different than just some reading from a book. So it really helps sync the information and allows you to react quickly in a real-life situation," she said.
Poleon also said it helps her think better on her feet.
“If they suddenly go into acute respiratory distress, we're able to know okay, we need to give breaths, we might need to intubate the patient and we might need to start an IV," she said.
The simulators come at a steep price. Each simulator costs around $75,000, but Hawkes said students are more prepared.