A Day in the Life at UNMC

Standardized patients make mission SimPossible

UNMC security officer Richard Hartman, in the role he was born to play, UNMC security officer Richard Hartman, deals with Sondra Bluma's crazy mom in this week's Mission SimPossible exercise.
UNMC security officer Richard Hartman, in the role he was born to play — UNMC security officer Richard Hartman — is seen dealing with Sondra Bluma’s crazy mom in this week’s Mission SimPossible exercise.

They’re still counting votes to see whether the team from the family medicine interest group or the team from the emergency medicine interest group came out on top in the Innovation & Research Week simulation contest, Mission SimPossible. You can view the videos of each team’s performance, and vote yourself, here. They’ll be tallying votes until noon today. But no matter which group of second-year med students (and one pharmacy student) is declared the winner, we already know the event’s MVP.

The actors.

Or rather, as they are known in the simulation world, “standardized patients.”

There were Oscar-level (or at least Daytime Emmy-level) performances put forth in the simulation contest that tested students’ skills, expertise and their cool under pressure. The event, sponsored by the Sorrell Simulation Lab and UNeMed, plunged two “Grey’s Anatomy”-type casts of future doctors (and one future pharmacist) into a traumatic situation, to see if they would sink or swim.

Fainting bystanders are a frequent occurrence in simulation exercises.

But the stars of the show were undeniably Sondra Bluma, as the crazy mother; Brevan Jorgenson, as the bad son; and UNMC security officer Richard Hartman, as UNMC security officer Richard Hartman.

We’ve heard so much about how simulation is revolutionizing medical education and better preparing our future health care professionals for real-life patient care. And, through iEXCEL℠ and other initiatives, UNMC is using next-generation technology in simulation situations to great effect. But there’s also nothing like using human interaction to practice human interaction. Thus, standardized patients. Thus, the simulation contest first called Sim Wars, now renamed Mission SimPossible.

And thus, when each team of students happened upon their situation, a foot sticking out of a “stuck” “elevator door,” they also happened upon Brevan Jorgenson. Screaming.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” he cried. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

At this level of acting, Mission SimPossible participants were immediately taken aback.

“I don’t think I anticipated as much yelling,” one said, upon review.

“There was a lot of yelling,” another added.

“I think if it wasn’t a simulation,” one participant from another team said, “we would have been quicker to examine.”

But without the help of extensive training, we never really know how we might react under stress, which is the point of this exercise. And so Jorgenson, backed by a handful of extras also with him in the “elevator,” took it up a notch:

“Pain is bad for my life!” he said.

So here are these poor med (and pharmacy) students, trying to take some control of the situation, when the guy in the elevator’s “mother” shows up.

Paul Paulman, M.D., professor of family medicine, served as referee.
Paul Paulman, M.D., professor of family medicine, served as referee.

Yes, his mother.

She, the type of hysterical mother who would argue with her son while he’s got his foot stuck in an elevator; he, the kind of ungrateful son who would get his foot stuck in an elevator just to aggrieve his poor mom.

“Just like his father!” she shouted.

“Mom, don’t yell at me!” he said.

“I will too yell at you!” she said.

And — time.

Needless to say, neither team solved the problem.

“We design the scenario to be impossible,” said Paul Paulman, M.D., who was, of course, wearing a whistle and referee’s stripes. “Hence the name.”

Well, yes. The contest is to see which team reacts best in the face of the impossible. Which did so? Judge for yourself.

But what of the actors, who also included Kami Willett, simulation coordinator at the VA hospital, as a nursing student; Marissa Stanton, Ph.D., simulation grant specialist, as the bad son’s very pregnant sister; and Lei Yu, M4, as a fainting bystander?

Where did they find that level of emotion, of commitment? Were they unleashing just a little of their personal lives there?

Relieved after surviving their own ordeal, a team enjoyed the next team's travails.
Relieved after surviving their own ordeal, a team enjoyed the next team’s travails.

“It was acting,” said Jorgenson, an innovation and technology intern at the Clinical Simulation Lab in the Sorrell Center. “All acting.”

“They told me to be very controlling,” said Bluma, who as a former teacher is used to keeping students on their toes.

You can argue about which team was better. But Jorgenson knows one thing.

As a High School Alliance student, “I went to the first Sim Wars a few years ago,” he said. “I thought this one was improved.”

Why’s that?

“The screaming,” he said.

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