"This patient simulator is no dummy. It breathes, has a heartbeat, pupils that react to light and medications, a pulse that can be felt at five locations, and lung sounds," said Dr. Hal Doerr, head of the Medical Operational Support Team, a joint project of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), NASA Johnson Space Center and its support contractor, Wyle Laboratories. "About 200 parameters can be changed, so we can create any type of patient and then simulate medical events that could happen."
As mission lengths grow, the possibilities for medical problems in space increase. To expand the training of crew medical officers, NASA tasked the NSBRI with designing realistic training scenarios for astronauts and ground personnel involved in mission operations.
"This simulator will give us an extremely realistic setting to validate and integrate medical procedures and medical equipment," said Dr. Jim Logan, MOST project administrator from NASA's Medical Informatics and Health Care Systems Office. "The project also links the medical and operations sides of a mission. In the event of a medical emergency, all parts of the mission team crew, flight surgeons, biomedical engineers and flight operations need to be ready to react at a moment's notice."
The patient simulator is linked to a sophisticated computer, designed along the lines of a flight simulator, that controls the 'patient's' reactions and can be programmed to mimic various situations that could occur.
For a session on allergic reactions to medications, participants will face a wheezing simulator with a rapid pulse and swollen tongue. In some scenarios, the simulator will be programmed to talk.